DALLAS – Mild winter weather helped the nation’s airlines post their best January on-time performance on record.
The government said Thursday that 83.7 percent of flights on the biggest airlines arrived on time in January.
That’s up from 76.3 percent in January 2011, and the best January since 1995, when the government changed the way that delays are reported. But it was a dip from December’s 84.4 percent rating.
The Department of Transportation said that fewer flights were canceled in January, too. About 1.5 percent of scheduled flights were scratched, down from 3.9 percent a year earlier.
And there were no reports of U.S. flights stuck on the tarmac for three hours or more – or of international flights delayed for four hours or more. Airlines risk a hefty fine if planes sit on the runway that long.
Airlines benefited from fewer airport-snarling snowstorms. It was the fourth-warmest January on record, and snow cover in the lower 48 states was the third-lightest since 1967, according to government weather scientists.
Mild weather, however, can cause heartburn for airline bean-counters. When flights are canceled, airlines cram displaced passengers onto remaining planes. This results in the airline earning more money per seat because there are fewer empty seats.