ATLANTA (AP) -- U.S. airlines' on-time performance and baggage handling improved in September, though the carriers overall posted a higher rate of domestic cancellations compared to the same month a year ago, the Transportation Department said Friday.
Delta Air Lines Inc.'s regional subsidiary, Comair, had the worst on-time performance in September, while Hawaiian Airlines had the best.
The DOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics said the 19 carriers reporting on-time performance recorded an overall on-time arrival rate of 84.9 percent in September, higher than the 81.7 percent recorded a year earlier and 78.4 percent recorded in August of this year.
The agency said the carriers in September canceled 1.8 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, a higher rate than both the 1.1 percent cancellation rate of September 2007 and the 1.6 percent rate posted in August of this year. Hurricanes Gustav and Ike made landfall in the U.S. in September of this year.
The airlines overall posted a mishandled baggage rate of 3.86 reports per 1,000 passengers in September, an improvement over both September 2007's rate of 5.36 reports per 1,000 passengers and the rate of 4.98 reports per 1,000 passengers recorded in August of this year.
Complaints also dropped. The DOT said it received 684 complaints about airline service from consumers in September, down 23.8 percent from the 898 complaints filed in September 2007 and 32 percent fewer than the 1,006 received in August of this year.
Second-to-last in August, Comair had the lowest on-time arrival rate in September, at 77.4 percent. A Comair flight from Cleveland to Atlanta was late 82.8 percent of the time in September. Atlanta-based Delta's on-time arrival rate ranked ninth in September, at 84.4 percent.
Regional carrier Mesa Airlines had the second-lowest on-time arrival rate in September, at 78.1 percent, while UAL Corp.'s United Airlines had the third-lowest on-time arrival rate in the month, at 79.8 percent.
Hawaiian topped the list with an on-time arrival rate in September of 95.1 percent. Regional carrier Frontier Airlines was No. 2 at 91.4 percent and regional carrier Pinnacle Airlines was No. 3 at 90.6 percent.
Among legacy carriers, Northwest Airlines had the best on-time arrival rate in September, at 89.5 percent, good for fourth-best overall. Delta completed its $2.8 billion acquisition of Northwest on Oct. 29.
Among discount carriers, Southwest Airlines had the best on-time arrival rate in September, at 89 percent, good for fifth best overall.
Year-to-date, AMR Corp.'s American Airlines was at the bottom among the 19 reporting airlines in on-time performance.
Airlines struggling with high fuel costs have been raising fees for handling luggage and in some cases adding new fees for a first bag. Many airlines have been raising fares, as well. The market price of a barrel of oil has fallen dramatically since its record level in July. Many of the baggage and other fees remain, though some fees have been reduced or eliminated at certain carriers.