Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Airlines boost on-time rating, but Spirit often runs late

On-time performance improves at most US airlines, but half of Spirit flights in June were late.

If you get on a Spirit Airlines flight, there's a 50-50 chance that your flight will be late. Perhaps then it is no surprise that Spirit has the highest complaint rate of any major U.S. airline.

Spirit, a low-fare, high-fees carrier with a clientele of mostly leisure travelers, had by far the worst on-time performance in June among 14 airlines tracked in a government report. Only 49.9 percent of its flights arrived within 15 minutes of schedule, which is the government's definition of being on time. It was the worst on-time performance by a major airline in eight years.

Spirit did not immediately respond to a request for Comment.

United Airlines had the second-worst on-time rating, at 66.3 percent. "It wasn't the performance we like to provide for our customers," said spokesman Charlie Hobart. He said maintenance issues and bad weather — thunderstorms at one of United's hub airports on 25 different days, he said — contributed to the delays.

United Airlines had the second-worst rating, at 66.3 percent on time.

Overall, airlines covered by the U.S. Department of Transportation report operated 74.8 percent of their flights on time in June, up from 71.8 percent in June 2014.

Hawaiian Airlines, which benefits from many short flights in mostly good weather, finished on top, with 90.5 percent of its flights landing on time, followed by Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Virgin America, all three of which beat 80 percent.

Spirit performed poorly at nearly all airports it serves but was worst in Philadelphia, Chicago's O'Hare Airport and Detroit, where on-time percentages were in the 30s. About two in three flights were late. Nearly one-fourth of Spirit's flights were late at least 70 percent of the time in June.

On six routes, the Spirit delays averaged more than two hours.

Spirit's on-time rating was the worst since June 2005, when Alaska Airlines posted a 49.8 percent mark.

The overall rate of complaints against airlines jumped 45 percent from June 2014, but Spirit alone was responsible for more than half the increase. It wasn't big enough to be included in the government reports last year.

According to the government, 284 passengers filed complaints about Spirit. That's small compared with the number of passengers — about one in 5,200. But the Miramar, Florida-based company had by far the highest complaint rate of the 14 airlines covered in the report.

Spirit passengers were 43 times more likely to file a complaint than passengers on Alaska Airlines, which had the lowest complaint rate. More than half of the complaints against Spirit dealt with flight problems, with a smattering for refunds, baggage and customer service.

(David Koenig - Associated Press)

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