WASHINGTON – Washington National Airport had some of the most punctual airplane departures in August, according to a Transportation Department report issued earlier this month.
National tied with Houston Intercontinental Airport and San Diego’s Lindbergh Field for the highest number of on-time departures among major U.S. airports. They were on time about 88 percent of the time.
Flights are considered late if they leave more than 15 minutes after the scheduled departure time, said Bill Mosley, a DOT spokesman.
Dulles and Baltimore-Washington International airports, which are not considered major airports, had more average scores.
Flights left on time 85 percent of the time from Dulles and 86 percent of the time from BWI. Thirty-three of 77 airports reporting 1,000 or more departures in August scored better than BWI. Forty-five of the 77 scored better than Dulles.
Industry experts said the percentages have more to do with the airlines than the airports.
“It’s mostly the airline’s operational procedures. … That’s what makes the biggest difference,” said Richard Sullivan, manager of aircraft affairs at National and Dulles airports. “The airport operator’s role is to provide an efficient facility.”
The report also showed that morning arrivals were more punctual than afternoon and evening arrivals at National Airport.
“That’s primarily driven by the business nature of the facility,” Sullivan said, adding that the airport’s peak hours are from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
While the report cited on-time percentages for arrivals and departures from various airports, it only provided on-time arrival percentages for the 10 largest U.S. airlines.
Southwest Airlines had the highest percentage of on-time arrivals nationally, with 86 percent of its flights arriving on time to the 46 airports for which data was reported.
Continental was the most punctual airline at National in August, with its 774 flights arriving on time 85 percent of the time.
Peggy Mahoney, a Continental spokeswoman, said implementing a bonus program for employees helped improve the company’s on- time performance. “The employees understand what it means to the overall performance of the company to have the flights going out on time,” she said.
The few latenesses the company had were often due to unavoidable circumstances, Mahoney said.
“Sometimes, when it’s an act of God, for safety reasons, you just take a delay,” Mahoney said. “But little things … those are the things you can prevent and those are the things that we’re looking at.”
Continental had the second highest percentage of on-time arrivals in the country. At the 72 airports for which data was reported, Continental’s flights arrived on time 85 percent of the time.
USAir, with 2,619 flights arriving at National, had the second highest on-time record at that airport, at 84 percent.
Mary Jo Capizzi, a USAir spokeswoman, said flights are on time for the same reason they are late. Latenesses are usually caused by crew scheduling, air traffic control operations, customer processing difficulties and weather, she said.
“Some of those factors we control and some of them we don’t,” she said. “Things just happen to work out.”
Alaska Airlines had the lowest percentage of on-time arrivals at the 37 U.S. airports for which data was reported, with 71 percent of its flights arriving on time.
United Airlines had the lowest percentage of on-time flights into National, at 66 percent.
Joe Hopkins, a United Airlines spokesman, said latenesses were usually caused by weather, air traffic control delays and complications at air traffic control facilities.
The report also gave data on problems such as baggage mishandling at the 10 largest airlines.
Northwest Airlines received 27,768 reports – the highest number of mishandled baggage reports in August per 1,000 domestic passengers. Laughlin said a large increase in the number of Northwest’s passengers contributed to the high number of reports. Continental Airlines received the fewest mishandled baggage reports per 1,000 domestic passengers, at 11,677. -30-