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Posted at 12:58 PM ET, 12/ 7/2010

Feds: Tarmac delay rule is working

By Associated Press and Staff Reports

The government says October was the first month when no airplanes were stuck on the ground for more than three hours, since it started collecting such data in 2008.

Long delays are rare in October, because it's one of the slowest months for air travel and weather is relatively mild in most of the country. Still, the Transportation Department says the rule that threatens huge fines for airlines with long delays is working. There were 11 delays of more than three hours in October 2009.

No fines have been doled out for three-hour violations since the rule went into effect on April 29. The rule requires U.S. airlines operating domestic flights to deplane passengers if a delay exceeds three hours. There exceptions for safety and disruptions in airport operations.

Overall, more flights were on time in October compared with a year ago. The on-time rate for the nation's largest airlines was 83.8 percent, up from 77.3 percent in the same month last year. Fewer flights were delayed than in September of this year, when the on-time rate was 85.1 percent.

Hawaiian Airlines, AirTran Airways and United Airlines had the highest on-time rates. Comair, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways were lowest.

There was one route in September that was considered chronically delayed -- more than 30 minutes late more than 50 percent of the time -- for three consecutive months. That Delta Connection flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles was late more than 71 percent of the time in October.

Passenger complaints about airline service were down overall in October, but up for U.S. airlines. Complaints about foreign airlines fell.

U.S. airlines appear to be doing a better job with checked bags. The mishandled baggage rate dropped from 3.51 reports per 1,000 passengers in October 2009 to 2.91 this October.

What has your experience been? Have you encountered significant delays sitting on the tarmac?

By Associated Press and Staff Reports  | December 7, 2010; 12:58 PM ET
Categories:  Aviation  
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