Domestic airline delays in 2007 were the second worst on record, the Transportation Department said Tuesday.
Flights in the United States were late more than 26 percent of the time last year, a slightly better performance than in 2000, when airlines were tardy 27.4 percent of the time. The federal government began collecting airlines on-time data in 1995.
Tempe-based US Airways, which bested all but two Hawaiian island carriers in on-time performance in December, was worse than all but two other small U.S. domestic airlines for the full year 2007. The hometown airline arrived late slightly more than 31 percent of the time in 2007. Its major competitor, Southwest Airlines, missed scheduled arrivals only 20 percent of the time in 2007.
The industry's poor performance reflects rising passenger demand coupled with congestion in the skies and on tarmacs as the Federal Aviation Administration grapples with a growing number of air traffic controllers nearing retirement age. In 2006, domestic flights were late about 24.5 percent of the time.
President Bush has demanded action to avoid another summer of record delays, but there is little consensus among airlines, airport operators, Congress and the administration on what should be done.
Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said earlier this month that congested airports can charge landing fees based on the time flights land and traffic volume to encourage carriers to spread operations more evenly throughout the day.
The Air Transport Association, which represents the nation's largest airlines, said a more comprehensive fix is needed.
The airlines and the FAA are pressing for a new, $15 billion satellite-based air traffic control system, dubbed NextGen, that will take nearly 20 years to complete to improve operations.d