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Jan 17, 3:03 PM EST

Airlines increase on-time arrivals, reduce canceled flights


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AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

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The chances that your flight will be on time and won't get canceled appear to be looking up.

The federal Department of Transportation reported Tuesday that 86.5 percent of U.S. flights in November arrived on time, an improvement over both the previous month and November 2015.

Less than one-third of 1 percent of domestic flights on the busiest 12 airlines were canceled, the lowest rate in any month since the department started keeping comparable records in 1995. The previous low was set in September.

And the rate of bags that got lost, delayed or damaged was the lowest in figures that go back to 1987, the department said.

Hawaiian Airlines and Delta Air Lines posted the best rates for on-time arrivals, over 90 percent. Virgin America, which is now owned by Alaska Airlines' parent, had the worst mark, 81.4 percent.

Delta reported no cancelled flights the entire month but diverted 79 flights to alternate airports. Alaska, Frontier, Hawaiian and Virgin America canceled fewer than 20 flights each with far fewer diversions than Delta.

Delta spokesman Michael Thomas said the airline has made many small changes over the past five years to cut down on delays and cancellations. Those range from better weather forecasting to stocking spare parts where planes end their day so that maintenance issues can be handled overnight.

ExpressJet and SkyWest, which operate flights for regional brands such as American Eagle, United Express and Delta Connection, each canceled more than 300 flights.

Two November flights, one on United Airlines and one on Southwest, were delayed on the ground for at least three hours, which could expose the airlines to fines.

The airlines reported about two mishandled bags for every 1,000 passengers. Virgin America and Alaska had the best rates for bag handling while ExpressJet and Frontier had the worst.

Consumers filed 642 complaints about airlines with the Transportation Department, down from 987 a year earlier. Complaints about foreign airlines rose, however.

Vaughn Jennings, a spokesman for trade group Airlines for America, said the carriers invested $17 billion last year in employees, products and technology to improve the experience of their 2.2 million customers per day - and good weather in November helped too. He said that the positive trends should continue into 2017.

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The full report: http://bit.ly/2jGHege

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