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The Best and Worst U.S. Airlines in September

American Airlines’ on-time performance plummeted

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The performance metrics of most U.S. airlines improved significantly and the number of consumer complaints continued to fall in September, according to the Department of Transportation’s most recent Air Travel Consumer Report. The 15 airlines tracked by the report posted an on-time performance of 83.3% — worse than the 83.9% a year ago, but much better than August’s 79.1%.

Air travelers also could cheer the fact that there were no tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights — and none of more than four hours on international flights — during the month. The government’s recent crackdown on such delays, which includes the threat of hefty fines, appears to be working.

Passengers of American Airlines (PINK:AAMRQ) had far less to cheer about in September, however. American’s on-time performance plummeted to 58% in September as an ongoing labor dispute with its pilots reached its zenith.

Here’s the breakdown of September 2012’s best and worst airlines as measured by performance in four areas: on-time flights, flight cancellations, mishandled baggage and complaints:

Best On-Time Arrival Performance

1. Hawaiian Airlines (NASDAQ:HA) — 96.4%

Hawaiian Airlines’ reliable on-time performance is beginning to look more like a Swiss train than a typical U.S. airline. HA not only held onto the top spot again in September, it boosted its performance from 92.8% a month earlier. Hawaiian appears to be an odds-on favorite to hold onto the coveted first-place ranking it has owned since 2004.

Runners up:

2. AirTran, a unit of Southwest (NYSE:LUV) — 90.9%. Since LUV acquired AirTran, the carrier’s performance metrics have soared.

3. Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) — 89.7%.  DAL’s on-time performance surged by nearly 6 percentage points in September, giving it a strong third-place finish.

4. Alaska Airlines (NYSE:ALK) — 89.6%

5. U.S. Airways (NYSE:LCC) — 87.3%. LCC improved its on-time performance from 82% in August.

How other major airlines stack up:

Southwest – 86.5%. This was a big on-time boost for LUV as well, which rose by nearly 7 percentage points over its August results.

American Eagle, a unit of American Airlines — 86.5%

Worst On-Time Arrival Performance

1. American Airlines — 58%

Not surprisingly, American’s on-time performance plummeted in September as the war of words between parent AMR and its pilots heated up. The airline, which has been working through bankruptcy since last November, had been in a contentious labor dispute with the Allied Pilots Assn., which represents the airline’s nearly 7,500 pilots.

The union contends that the slowdown wasn’t an organized effort by pilots. Regardless of the cause, American’s grim performance metrics in September likely helped drive the carrier and its pilots back to the bargaining table. The two sides on Monday announced a tentative agreement on a new contract, which the union’s board and pilots must still approve.

Runners up:

2. ExpressJet Airlines, a regional subsidiary of SkyWest (NASDAQ:SKYW) — 81.0% While these on-time stats are nothing to write home about, ExpressJet’s numbers reflect an upward trend, gaining a 12-percentage-point improvement in the past two months.

3. United Continental (NYSE:UAL) — 82%. UAL’s 10-percentage point gain over August reflects its success in fixing numerous systems glitches that wreaked operational havoc this summer.

How other major airlines stack up:

JetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU) — 82.8%

Article printed from InvestorPlace Media,

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