Delta Has Totally Stopped Canceling Flights

For airline geeks, the Department of Transportation’s monthly consumer travel report is a data trove (PDF) that can expose trouble spots in carriers’ operations. It’s also a way for airlines to keep score: Many of them pay out employee bonuses for good performance. Two things stick out from the newly released report on June:

Delta just doesn’t cancel. For all practical purposes, the nation’s third-largest airline no longer cancels flights. Delta scrubbed 19 flights in June—that’s out of 69,621 flights in total. Delta executives have become fanatical about eradicating flight cancellations, having found that passengers prefer flight delays to outright cancellations. “If that’s what customers hate most, let’s not cancel any more flights,” a Delta vice president told the Wall Street Journal earlier this year.

Hawaiian, Frontier, and Virgin America followed Delta’s close-to-zero rate with cancellations of 0.1 percent in June. American Airlines’ regional carrier, Envoy, had the highest rate, at 6.5 percent.

Southwest is still late. The tardiness problem continues to plague Southwest, which finished last among large airlines in June for on-time arrivals. Only 67.6 percent of its flights were on time, a rate that was worse than either of the prior two months. Southwest’s on-time performance was worse than all but two regional carriers, ExpressJet and American’s Envoy. If one excludes flights by Southwest’s AirTran subsidiary, which ran nearly 81 percent of its flights on time, the airline’s performance would have been even worse: 66.8 percent on-time.

Southwest executives have blamed their poor on-time record this year to schedule changes made last fall, which were designed to shorten connection times and allow for additional flying time during weekday business hours. The scheduling effort blew up, and Southwest is now working to build in more time to turn around planes and reduce the number of airports at which it connects passengers. Southwest says tweaks to the schedule should yield better on-time performance by wintertime.

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