Nearly one in five U.S. airline flights arrived late in July

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Hawaiian Airlines Inc. as usual posted the best on-time performance in July with 88.6 percent of flights arriving on time, the goverrnment reported Thursday.

Nearly 1 in every 5 flights on U.S. airlines in July was at least 15 minutes late, the U.S. Department of Transportation said Thursday.

In the airline industry, though, that qualifies as good news — in a way.

Although only 78.1 percent of the July flights were on time or within 14 minutes of schedule, that’s a 2.5-point improvement from July 2014.

In fact, the 2015 performance was the best for a July since 2003, when the department reported that 79.7 percent of U.S. airline flights arrived within 14 minutes of schedule. In addition, it was the eighth month in a row that the on-time performance exceeded the same month a year earlier.

July is typically a tough month for airlines as crowded airplanes and summer storms combine to slow airline operations. Since 1995, only January, June and December have averaged a higher percentage of late flights.

Hawaiian Airlines Inc., as usual, posted the best performance, with 88.6 percent of flights on time, although its year-over-year performance dropped 4.7 points. Spirit Airlines Inc. at 68.7 percent had the worst on-time mark.

JetBlue Airways Corp. improved its on-time numbers by 10.7 percent to 76.5 percent. Among the three biggest carriers, Delta Air Lines Inc. led the group with 84.2 percent, while Fort Worth-based American Airlines Inc. showed the biggest improvement, up 5.8 percentage points to 80 percent. United Airlines reported 73.5 percent of its flights on time, as did Dallas-based Southwest Airlines Co.

The industry also improved its bag performance with 3.22 claims of mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers, down 0.27 percentage points. Worst among the 13 was Envoy Air Inc., which flies as American Eagle, with 6.61 claims per 1,000.

The rate of complaints rose in July, with 2.17 complaints per 100,000 passengers, up 0.72 percentage points. That’s a 50 percent increase.

Alaska Airlines Inc. had the fewest complaints per 100,000 passengers. Its rate of 0.23 was nearly half the 0.44 complaints per 100,000 it received in July 2014.

Two ultralow-fare, low-cost carriers, Spirit and Frontier Airlines Inc., continue to receive the highest rate of complaints from the traveling public.

Spirit, just added this year to the list of reporting carriers, finished last with 12.56 complaints per 100,000, with Frontier next at 7.50 complaints per 100,000.

Spirit has had the highest rate of complaints for each of the last three months, with Frontier finishing second. The first four months of the year, Frontier had the highest rate of complaints, with Spirit finishing second.

For the first seven months of the year, Spirit had received 12.73 complaints per 100,000, followed by 8.20 for Frontier and an industry average of 1.54 complaints per 100,000 excluding those two carriers.

Delta canceled just one-tenth of 1 percent of its flights in July to lead all carriers, while Envoy finished last with 2.6 percent of its flights canceled during the month. As a group, the 13 carriers canceled 0.9 percent of scheduled flights that month, down 0.7 points from July 2014. The government said it was the lowest July cancellation rate in 21 years of comparable records.

Follow Terry Maxon on Twitter at @tmaxon.

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