AirTran Airways tops all U.S. airlines in the latest rankings for on-time arrivals, knocking off perennial winner Hawaiian Airlines.
The bad news for passengers who love punctuality: You can't fly on AirTran anymore.
The low-fare carrier flew its last revenue flight on Dec. 28 and has been folded into Southwest Airlines, which bought AirTran in 2011.
The U.S. Department of Transportation said Tuesday that 80.6 percent of domestic flights on the 14 biggest airlines arrived within 14 minutes of schedule in November. That was better than October's 80.0 percent on-time rate, but down from 83.5 percent in November 2013.
AirTran posted a 90.4 percent rating, and Hawaiian was second at 89.4 percent.
The outcome was like an upset in football. AirTran beat its recent on-time rate by about 10 percentage points, helped by a much lighter schedule as it wound down its operations. AirTran flew only about one-third as many planes as it did in November 2013.
"We had more actual time on the ground because (AirTran) was getting smaller, so it was easier to keep them on time," said Steve Hozdulick, senior director of operational performance at parent Southwest.
At the same time, Hawaiian slipped a bit in November but is almost certain to finish 2014 with the best on-time record for the full year by a wide margin. It has a built-in advantage — many of its domestic flights are short hops between Hawaiian islands, far from the snow and ice of the Northeast and upper Midwest.
Among the four largest airlines, Delta performed best at 86.6 percent and Southwest improved to second, followed by United, then American.
Envoy Air finished last among all airlines, with an on-time rating of 69.3 percent. Envoy operates many American Eagle regional flights for American Airlines.
Passengers on four November flights sat on the tarmac for more than three hours, a violation of federal rules that could result in fines. Three of those delays occurred during a Nov. 22 ice storm in Detroit.
Airlines canceled 4,301 domestic flights, or just under 1 percent, slightly lower than the rate a year earlier.
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