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Airline performance rated highest in decades

August 9, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
If you remember a time when flights arrived on schedule and never lost your luggage, you may want to think again. The conventional wisdom that air travel has become less convenient is not entirely true. "The good ol' days" are actually right now.

Even though most planes take off full and security lines are longer than ever, U.S. airlines are more on time now than in the last 20 years.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, so far this year nearly 84 percent of domestic flights arrived within 15 minutes of their scheduled times. That's the best performance since 1988. In fact, just last year, only 77 percent of domestic flights were on time.

Another improvement the airlines are making is fewer lost bags. Airlines like are doing a better job of handling bags, including changing procedures and better baggage tags. The results? This year only three suitcases per 1,000 passengers lost luggage. In 1989, the number was eight suitcases per 1,000 passengers.

Some of the other steps airlines are taking to improve overall performance include better technology with newer planes; more realistic schedules by extending flight times; timely delivery of food and fuel through revised contracts with suppliers; and improved boarding procedures.

"I always try to get an early morning flight because those are usually on time because the plane's already here the night before," said John DiScala of JohnnyJet.com, who flies more than 100,000 miles every year.

But airlines shouldn't get all the credit for improved performance. After all, the weather across the country has been better this year.

Also, the recession had fewer people flying, which causes flights to be canceled, and that clears up airspace.


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