U.S. airline passengers spent less time stuck on runways or trapped in terminals in March, resulting in fewer customer gripes than in the same month a year ago.
About 81.5 percent of flights of the main U.S. airlines arrived on time during the month this year, up from 78.7 percent in the same month last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) said in its latest air travel consumer report Monday. About 1 percent of flights were canceled during the month, an improvement from 2.2 percent of flights in the same period a year earlier.
Yet, as recent air travelers can likely attest, March’s gains may look like a distant dream. Thousands of passengers have missed their flights in recent weeks because they were stuck in long security-checkpoint lines, the Associated Press reported. The Transportation Security Administration has blamed increased security measures, limited staffing caused by budget cuts and a surge in passengers for the longer wait lines.
The DOT’s monthly report covers the 12 largest U.S. airlines. In terms of on-time arrivals, Hawaiian Airlines ranked first in March, with 89.8 percent of flights. Budget carrier Spirit Airlines ranked last that month, with only 64.6 percent of flights arriving on time.
Delta Air Lines, the biggest U.S. airline by market capitalization ($37.1 billion), ranked second in terms of on-time arrivals in March, with 87.9 percent of flights, the DOT reported. The Atlanta-based carrier also nabbed the No. 2 slot in a separate study of customer satisfaction.
The recent J.D. Power survey ranked North American carriers on a number of factors, including baggage handling, costs, flight crew and in-flight services. Among the five legacy carriers, Alaska Airlines pleased travelers the most, according to responses by more than 10,000 passengers who flew on a major North American airline between March 2015 and March 2016.
Delta in second place was followed by American Airlines (including its US Airways legacy operations), Air Canada and United Airlines.
Overall, satisfaction with North American airlines — both legacy and budget carriers — rose for a fourth straight year, measuring at a record high of 726 points out of a possible 1,000. J.D. Power attributed the gains in customer satisfaction to airlines making more on-time arrivals and losing less baggage.
“Additionally, airlines are reinvesting profits into newer planes, improved in-flight entertainment, Wi-Fi, power outlets, etc.,” Rick Garlick, J.D. Power’s global travel and hospitality practice lead, told CNN last week. “Add to this the fact that the annoyance over baggage fees grows less each year, and you have higher satisfaction despite what you may think or have heard.”