If We Have To Deal With Increased Airline Fees At Least Planes Are Arriving On Time

It might seem too good to be true, but it isn’t: The airline industry is in the midst of its best performance in regards to on-time flight arrivals since 1988. Cold comfort for the next time you’re watching the clock tick your life away waiting to take off on a congested runway during the holidays, sure, but a good sign nevertheless.

Almost 84% of domestic flights arrived within 15 minutes of their scheduled time in the first six months of 2012, which is the best it’s been since the government started keeping an eye on things in 1988, reports the Associated Press. If it continues to go so swimmingly for the rest of the year, it’ll beat the all-time full-year best of 83% in 1991. Last year flights arrived on time 77% of the time. The worst year was back in 2000 when only 73% of flights were punctual.

And with more flights arriving when they should and making their connections, that means more bags have made it where they should when they should without getting damaged. Around three suitcases per 1,000 travelers were reported lost, damaged or delayed so far this year. baggage had a bad year in 1989, with almost eight suitcases per 1,000 people getting snagged up.

Part of the reason flights are on time more is that there’s less demand to fly the friendly skies, so more planes get grounded. That means fewer planes are fighting for takeoff times and have some wiggle room. Weather is also a factor — snow and rain haven’t been as bad as usual, clearing up the skies for timely flights.

There are a bunch of additional reasons that are a result of the airlines trying to improve their schedules and get people where they’re trying to go, including better technology to cut down on maintenance problems, schedules that are padded with extra time, quicker food and fuel delivery and better boarding procedures to herd us all onto planes faster and unload as quickly as possible.

Oh and of course, airlines don’t want to end up shelling out precious dollars to the government for fines related to sitting on the tarmac for over three hours. Those can total about $4 million a jet, as airlines can be fined up to $27,500 per passenger in those cases. Yikes.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says his office has been cracking down on the industry to make sure customers are pleased.

“We sent a very loud message to the airlines that they need to treat people with respect,” LaHood says. “People pay a lot of money to get on an airplane and they expect to have to on-time service.”

Thanks, Ray! Now, about those pesky checked bag fees and paying out extra for a window seat…

Now arriving on time: Your flight and suitcase [Associated Press]