Airline's ranking a surprise
By Chris Woodyard and Barbara Hansen
The Patriots won the Super Bowl. President Bush blacked out after choking on a pretzel.
And on the growing list of surprising events, America West Airlines ranked first in the Department of Transportation's just-released on-time arrival rankings for December.
America West says it has never ranked as the nation's most punctual airline in 14 years of monthly reporting.
America West's achievement wasn't the only surprise in the DOT's Air Travel Consumer Report, which can be accessed at www.dot.gov/airconsumer/index1.htm.
For the fourth month in a row, airlines posted overall on-time arrival rates above 80 percent, a reflection of how post-Sept. 11 jitters have unclogged the skies.
December is typically one of the busiest travel periods of the year, and before the attacks May was the only month in which the 80 percent on-time threshold was surpassed.
A close look at the report turns up more nuggets:
New York's LaGuardia, long the nation's most congested airport, improved its on-time arrival rate to 89.7 percent, up 43.1 percentage points in December compared with the same month in 2000. Other major airline hubs also showed big improvements.
Major airports on each of Hawai'i's four main islands, where the lack of congestion has made them a breeze for air travelers, showed a sharp drop-off in on-time performance. Airlines say security delays were a factor.
Among airports in the bottom 20 were Chattanooga, Tenn.; Gulfport, Miss.; and San Francisco.
Northwest Airlines, a strong performer in on-time flights in recent years, had four of the six flights that were late at least 80 percent of the time in December. It ranked second-worst in overall on-time performance, ahead of Alaska Airlines. Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said the airline is "working to return to" the top of the rankings.
After America West, the top airlines were Continental, American, Delta, US Airways, American Eagle, Southwest, TWA and United.