You've Got About A 1 In 3 Chance Of Arriving Late With American Airlines

For the third month in a row American Airlines is the worst airline when it comes to arriving on-time, says the Department of Transportation. Only 67.3% of American’s flights arrived within 14 minutes of scheduled arrival. Also remarkably tardy were United Airlines and Continental.

Sadly, 67.3% is actually an improvement for AA, the past two months saw on-time percentages of only 62% and 65.3%. Overall, the average number of flights that are on-time is 79%.

More bad news: American Airlines’ regional partner, American Eagle, canceled 2.8 percent of its flights in May, the worst in the industry.

Is there a fee that can fix this?

American Airlines again ranks last in on-time arrivals [Dallas Morning News]
(Photo: benh57 )

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  1. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    One would expect more flights to be on time because of less crowded skies after so many airlines have gone out of business.

  2. blue_duck says:

    I fly Monday with AirTran. My experience with them is about half late, half on time. They do tend to cancel/move flights with no notice though…

  3. Noris159 says:

    Saw a billboard outside O’Hare about a AA customer blog for people to tell their AA stories about how awful the company is on timeliness.

    After they wouldn’t help me get on a bus from Chicago to Milwaukee, I swore off of them. Just last month, I mailed them a JPG all my ticket stubs (important info blacked out) of flights they would’ve gotten if only they helped me back then. The total was well over $2,500 in airfare. I don’t know if the CS person cared, but I’m sure someone in that company is paid to care and would’ve if they saw that jpg.

  4. snoop-blog says:

    I personally don’t think taking an aircraft full of people 30,000 feet in the air is something you should rush. If I am 30 mins or more late… better late than never.

  5. blue_duck says:

    @snoop-blog: Then it should be stated that the schedule is “flexible.” Many people choose their flights based on needing to be at a certain place at a certain time.

  6. ReidFleming says:

    This is all the more alarming considering how the times have been padded for the last ten years or so. It used to be that the flight times were near enough to what it should take. For quite a while now, there is a large chunk of time tacked on to the schedule and they still can’t make it work. Sad.

  7. kepler11 says:

    unfortunately, carriers like American, United, are heavily affected when thunderstorms of summer plague their hubs such as Chicago, Washington, etc. AA was also badly affected by the MD80 fiasco, so there may be some minor aftereffects from that.

    The reason that the majors will never do as well as point to point airlines such as Jetblue/Southwest, is that to serve the number of cities and intl destinations that they do, they *have* to have hubs that operate with high density, but which are susceptible to such delays. Jetblue/Southwest do not fly internationally, so you can’t have both benefits. And if they did, you can be certain they would have similar delays. It’s not that they’re remarkably ingenious or lucky.

  8. snoop-blog says:

    @blue_duck: maybe you shouldn’t schedule down to the hour. If the flight lands 30 mins late and that makes you 30 mins late for whatever, it is still your fault. Like the old I was railroaded excuse. My boss would say, I should have left earlier. 30mins to an hour shouldn’t be such a big deal. It’s not like there is a quicker way to go somewhere besides flying.

  9. snoop-blog says:

    besides, things like the weather is out of our controll. I thought everyone knew that it’s not exactly a train schedule. I’m only saying that if they need 30 more mins for a storm to pass, why not wait 30 mins, and land safe, as opposed to taking stupid risks with human lives because they might make you late.

  10. weakdome says:

    I agree, 30 minutes isn’t a big deal. But my last TWO flights with AA were both in excess of FOUR HOURS delayed. Both ways.
    That’s the difference between lunch and dinner.
    It’s the difference between making it to a rental car kiosk before they close.
    It’s the difference between checking in Thursday or checking in Friday, if you have a late flight (I did).

    It’s just added insult to injury since we already have to show up to the F-ing airport two hours before our flight is scheduled to depart… and then it doesn’t depart for another four hours? Makes you hate the airline.

  11. OfficeMaxie says:

    My husband had the AA flight from hell 2 weeks ago. When he boarded the plane, they found someone had thrown up on the seats 1 row behind him, and it had not been cleaned. When asked, an attendant made a pitiful attempt at mopping up, with a few handiwipes. The passengers had to sit in it, and everyone had to deal with the smell. G-R-O-S-S.

    Imagine how late the flights would be if they decided to clean up vomit!

  12. snoop-blog says:

    @weakdome: sounds like you could have drove quicker. In fact, when you add that 2 hours before the flight, it makes travels of around 300-400 miles quicker to drive than fly.

  13. QuantumRiff says:

    I can’t help but think that our government owns rights of way next to every interstate they build.. Could you imagine 2 high speed rail lines along I-80 (one line for each direction). SF-Chicago at 250MPH, without all the delays (who cares about thunderstorms on a train), security (Awfully hard to crash a train off the tracks, and you can always cut the electricity to the tracks,and stop it dead) and efficiency (you can carry 1500 people without much more difficulty than carrying 1000) I remember somewhere, people have said that such a thing could have been built, instead of the “stimulus checks” that got sent out this spring. Think about how many jobs that would have created, and time it would have saved.. Link up a few more interstates, and boom! efficent, safe travel. (did I mention that trains actually have legroom?)

  14. blue_duck says:

    @snoop-blog: Again with “flexible” scheduling. I’m not a business traveler and usually don’t need to be at a certain place at a certain time. My problem is promising something you can’t deliver.

  15. SkokieGuy says:

    Why can’t the airlines emulate utiliy companies (oh – sucky customer service, I guess they already do).

    Seriously, why can’t the departure and arrival time be listed as a window? “Your flight will arrive between 3:00 pm and 3:35pm.

    This would allow you to plan any connecting flights, permit the airlines to claim more ‘on time’ flights AND likely cause flyers to spend even more time in airports where we can spend money and generate revenue for the airport.

    We accept a four hour window to get our cable TV installed, which presumable doesn’t require a truck and team of installers to arrive from another city prior to our appointment.

    I can’t travel across Chicago by car and be on time within 15 minutes. Why should I expect an airline to cross the country accurate within 15 minutes?

    Perhaps we need an expectation change?

  16. tedyc03 says:

    I think that the “We’ll fly you in a small plane” fee might work. Private aircraft seem to be able to take off and land when they want at smaller regional airports.

  17. weakdome says:

    @SkokieGuy: Technically, you aren’t paying for an arrival time. You’re paying to arrive AT ALL, SOMETIME. I’m not 100% sure about this, but that’s my understanding of a plane ticket… you’re really just paying for the privilege of getting there whenever they damn well feel like letting you.

  18. kepler11 says:

    @QuantumRiff:
    SF to Chicago at 250mph would be 7.5 hours, without stops, in a straight line. That would be well beyond any rail system achieved to date, given that the highway rights of way are much less straight than railroads need, there are severe elevation issues, and how about all the stops in towns along the way you need to satisfy the politicians who don’t want to build railroads except if they go through their towns? Maybe doubling or tripling 7.5 to give an actual travel time would be more realistic, and you still find that air travel, for its delays, is a better option.

  19. jmsierra says:

    I just flew in via American Airlines yesterday — reality speaks a lot louder than statistics. My flight was delayed 3 times (2 hours). At one point, they had said we would be taking off at 7:45, and then an announcer changed the gate AND said we would be departing at 6:45 PM. This was announced at 6:05, so me and my entire group had to move to the new gate, only to discover that it was still leaving at 7:45. The American Airlines employee got upset at me when I asked for clarification and confirmation as far as departure. Its pathetic–the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand was doing.

    Airline travel is a misery and EVERY SINGLE TIME that I fly American Airlines, I am disappointed and left frustrated. Their staff is sour and moody, and they are RARELY friendly. Frankly, delayed flights is the least of their problems.

    If they at least smiled, and went out of their way to explain what was going on, and tried to be honest with their customers, I think more people would be understanding. We are intelligent enough to understand it is a complex industry and that problems and weather happens. As it is, I will gladly pay more for a ticket to ensure I don’t travel American Airlines again.

  20. Orv says:

    @QuantumRiff: One of the big problems with the idea of deploying high-speed rail in the U.S. is our rail lines mostly aren’t grade-separated from our roads. Imagine the disaster when Billy-Bob drives his heating oil truck onto the tracks and gets creamed by a train doing 180 mph.

    The another big problem is we (collectively) don’t want to pay for it. Countries that have good passenger rail subsidize it pretty heavily. Even the relatively small subsidies Amtrak gets are a political football here.

    @snoop-blog: What bugs me isn’t so much when the flight boards an hour late…what I hate is when they stuff everyone onto the plane and push back so they can claim an “on-time” departure, then sit on the tarmac for an hour because of a delay they knew would happen.

  21. SkokieGuy says:

    If we simply double-decked our major expressways, we would create jobs, not take additional land or have to relocate homes (as would new highways or public transportation).

    The top deck of these expressways could be limited exits, an ‘express’ if you will. Because traffic time would be drastically reduced, a very high toll could be charged.

    Less time to commute the same distance means less gasoline used, less polution.

    My area, O’Hare to downtown Chicago can easily be 1-1/2 hours during rush hour. Add in an accident or bad weather and it can top 2 hours.

    Double-deck the expressway and this commute could be 15 – 20 minutes. Charge $10.00 toll, maybe $20.00 and you’d have people happily paying it.

    Jobs, improved quality of life, reduced dependence of oil, improved air quality, less stress and road rage.

    I would imagine most larger cities have similar opportunities to piggyback on this existing highway real estate.

  22. Orv says:

    @SkokieGuy: Here in Seattle they want to *tear down* a double-decked expressway and replace it with a surface street, because it’s ugly and it’s supposedly hurting property values. :P

  23. SkokieGuy says:

    @Orv: Interesting. I’m sure the next 4 or 5 years of demolition and reconstruction will be the perfect way to make home values skyrocket during the mortgage crisis.

    What is Seattle planning to do to handle the vehicles that now have half the former capacity?

    And IMHO ugly is largely a function of the engineers and designers (and budget) of the original project.

  24. kepler11 says:

    @Orv:
    “…What bugs me isn’t so much when the flight boards an hour late…what I hate is when they stuff everyone onto the plane and push back so they can claim an “on-time” departure, then sit on the tarmac for an hour because of a delay they knew would happen…”

    often, this is actually quite necessary because gates are in such heavy use that the plane needs to vacate its spot for the next one to get in and unload its passengers. If you’ve ever been stuck *after* an early landing, waiting for a gate to open up, you will understand why.

  25. chuckv says:

    How about we privatize the air traffic control system and operation of airports instead of having the government handle it? That way, when airports and controllers are inefficient, they’ll lose business. The current system does not as directly penalize poor performance. Because the costs of poor performance in the airline industry have been artificially reduced, there is more poor performance.

  26. AnxiousDemographic says:

    With all the multi-hour delays, maybe the whole system is running a whole day out of whack now. They should just take a day off, ya know, and start out fresh and on schedule again in the morning. /This message sponsored by the Department of Stupid Ideas/

  27. kepler11 says:

    @SkokieGuy:
    “…If we simply double-decked our major expressways, we would create jobs, not take additional land or have to relocate homes (as would new highways or public transportation)…”

    Unfortunately, there would be nothing simple about it. Think about it, in the majority of land outside cities where the highways are (non elevated, just laid on graded earth). An elevated highway structure needs extensive foundations, completely newly assessed engineering of the loads, etc. that would make it probably equivalent to building a completely new highway. And the underlying highway would be unusable during construction. Not to mention elevated highways cost several factors more than plain laid roads.

  28. Orv says:

    @SkokieGuy: There’s some idea that they could be distributed to other streets. The real underlying motive (other than property owners who want to be able to sell views) is to try to discourage driving.

  29. kepler11 says:

    @chuckv:
    “…How about we privatize the air traffic control system and operation of airports instead of having the government handle it? That way, when airports and controllers are inefficient, they’ll lose business. The current system does not as directly penalize poor performance. Because the costs of poor performance in the airline industry have been artificially reduced, there is more poor performance…”

    You must be absolutely kidding — putting oversight of a critical infrastructure system (which to say the least is heavily dependent for safe operation on weather, and careful human judgment) into private hands, dependent on time performance for profit?

    To begin with, it is *NOT* the air traffic system’s fault that there are delays. It is the responsibility of the airlines, in that they have increased the number of flights to near the limit of many major airports. Air traffic control does a flawless job at moving planes around in the capacity of this system. ATC is one of the few govt organizations that does its job quietly and responsibly with millions of lives in their hands. It is up to airlines and airports to come up with how to expand the system to meet their capacity desires and eliminate delays, not ATC.

    can you see how ridiculous the idea is?

  30. azntg says:

    I’ve rode American Airlines for one round trip and that’s it. Only because I wasn’t paying for the tickets.

    At least both flights left and arrived on time. But I really feel for business travellers and medium-haul travellers. I imagine it was be hell in the skies.

    @QuantumRiff: I think it’s a great idea. More safe, mass transit options coming to fruition is always a good thing, in my opinion.

    Oh and sorry to nitpick, but cutting the electricity off won’t do much to stop the train dead in its tracks.

    Sure, the train won’t be able to gain more speed on a level or an upward slope track because its tractions have lost power, but if it’s already moving on a high rate of speed, laws of physics will keep it moving on a high rate of speed until friction and other resistance forces gradually slows it down.

  31. snoop-blog says:

    @blue_duck: So I guess you’re not a big fan of santa clause then

  32. snoop-blog says:

    …now when I have a one in three chance of arriving period, then we have a problem…

  33. benh57 says:

    hey, thanks for using my photo, Consumerist. :P

    And true to form: both of my AA flights were delayed. The flight the photo is of (Dublin->Chicago) was delayed 30 minutes, and my connection in ORD was delayed over an hour.

  34. hwyengr says:

    @SkokieGuy: Just for a point of reference, it costs about $200/sf to build bridge decking. That’s just construction cost, after design. 10 miles (52800′) from ORD to downtown, 6 x 12′ lanes, 2 x 10′ shoulders x $200/sf = $971,520,000. Just get on the damn Blue Line.

  35. trujunglist says:

    @QuantumRiff:

    If only it were as easy as you suggest. Let’s just say that what you suggest is possible: a high speed train running around 200mph on average, running from SF to Chicago to NY. There’s an awful lot of cities in between there that would need to be serviced, reducing the speed of the train. ROW issues are an issue that I deal with on a nearly day to day basis. It’s not quite as simple as DOT holds ROW, DOT does whatever. Too bad really, because it ends up fucking people over more than it helps them. The impact study alone on a project of that magnitude sounds frightening to me, and a huge budget killer.

  36. Gort23 says:

    @SkokieGuy: There used to be double deck freeways in the SF Bay Area. One crushed 70 people during the Loma Prieta quake. They’ve since torn the other ones down.

  37. Weather and mechanical delays can really fark up schedules. So can a mid-air medical emergancy.

    25 years ago I was flying from NOLA to DFW via AA. The flight to leave New Orleans was a DC-10 that was inbound from Nashville. Well somebody died, nearly died, was trying to die or was just sick of air travel so the big ole DC-10 had to return to Nashville. Bottom line, the plan was well over an hour late getting into NOLA (If memory serves me correctly it was closer to 1.5 hours). The crew rushed the passenger swap. The pilot was flogging the engines. But the DC-10 was late getting into DFW.

    The trickle down effect of that single plane was huge. AS I understood the situation, EVERY AA plane on the ground at DFW (except 2) were waiting for one or more passenger from that NOLA inbound DC-10. And there were Delta and Continental flights that were affected. It was cheaper to hold the planes waiting for the missing passengers because in many cases the passengers were trying to connect the last flight out for the day.

    Now days I always plan my air trips with a backup flight behind each and every connection. Never again will I be the absolute last flight leaving a major hub.

  38. jamar0303 says:

    @trujunglist: Why on earth would you service all of the cities in between with all the trains in such an arrangement? Different levels of service need to be implemented- “local”, “rapid”, and “express” (like with Japan’s bullet trains- the first stops at every station, the second skips the small stops and the third only stops at the largest stops).

    And I do think such a project is too ambitious- start regionally. Link the major cities of California/the MidWest/the South, (reducing the need for small commuter jets) then start worrying about linking them together.

  39. SkokieGuy says:

    @hwyengr: Thank you for your numbers.

    If 10,000 cars a day used an O’hare / Downtown express with a $10.00 toll that would be $100,000 a day in revenue, not counting the benefits of improved air quality, gas savings, etc.

    Annually savings would be $36,500,000, so break even with construction costs would be about three years.

    And what would be the benefit to a local economy of people having hours of extra non-commute time and the gas savings? Reduced medical costs from improved air quality? Asthma is becoming a serious problem with Chicago’s kids.

  40. revmatty says:

    Maybe I just got lucky. I flew STL to SAN on a Saturday, returned the following Saturday. Both flights (AA) left were in the air within about 10 minutes of scheduled departure and our arrival in SAN was actually about 15 minutes early.

  41. Cybrczch says:

    Another fairly lucky flyer here. Flew OMA to DFW and back the past week. The flight to Texas left on time, we had to detour toward Little Rock because of storms over OK, but snuck around them and still managed to land within 15 minutes of our original arrival time. The trip back wasn’t as smooth, boarding was delayed 20 minutes (still luckier than the folks flying to Charlotte whose plane couldn’t be made flight ready in a timely manner and were transferred to board a different plane in another terminal). Even so, our flight arrived in OMA only a couple minutes behind schedule. And the flight crew on both flights were helpful and polite (even got *TWO* bags of snackies on the return trip WOO-HOO!!!). Even the TSA screeners seemed like they were having a good day.

    Yeah, that’ll never happen again…

  42. Inglix_the_Mad says:

    Well with quantum’s idea, break it down a bit. High-speed rail from where local airports are now to the major hubs (for example Madison,WI to Chicago – Hackensack to LaGuardia) and leave the locals for Private pilots / cargo.

    My Wife and I were talking about this. High-speed rail is looking to be more and more economical as the fuel prices rise. Run an elevated Maglev train with 4 tracks, regional / cross country. Longer runs (from Chicago to Washington / SF for example) are non-stop 250-350mph trains. Shorter runs are on a separate track running at 100-200mph.

    The problem? Initial cost. That would be in the billions, at least.

  43. sardonicbastard says:

    My American Eagle flight was cancelled in May… I’m part of a statistic! Yay. You can blame that one on pure bureaucracy. This was an early morning flight, leaving at 7am. On the previous night, the plane- a little tin can Embraer RJ-135- got hit by a bird. Hard enough to leave a *dent* in the airplane. They told us that we’d have to wait for some paperwork to get signed off etc, so it would be a while.

    We got on the plane, waited about a half hour, and then they told us that they had to get even more paperwork signed off- by the *manufacturer* of the plane. Since they weren’t even open yet, we were basically screwed. I ended up on a southwest flight two hours later.

    I was curious about how often this happens, since I take this flight all the time- and it turns out that this particular route has a 95% (!!) on-time rating. It also happens to be a prime target for American Eagle’s downsizing. Suck.

  44. aaronw1 says:

    Also, be aware that an airline’s scheduled performance/other factors may be tied to simply where it is. This is seen, for example, in some south american airlines that have ‘high’ accident rates, it’s because they fly in the Andes a lot.. and there’s big mountains there. This has gotten better in recent times, but you have to normalize things. For AA, they have a LOT of flights out of JFK/LGA. These are some of the worst hit when there are weather delays and everything gets backed up. I’m not saying that they’re angelic, but some events truly can’t be managed directly by them. I actually applaud them for cutting seats in NY to try to manage the issue of the airport being over-booked for arrival capacity (try landing 50 airplanes in an hour when the airport can only handle 40): [www.nytimes.com]