Major airlines did a slightly better job of operating flights on time last year despite holiday storms and inspection woes that grounded hundreds of jets.
But American Airlines ranked last for 2008, according to data released Monday by the Transportation Department, despite an improvement near the end of the year. American, headquartered in Fort Worth, reported less than 70 percent of flights landing on time last year.
Overall, the nation's airlines also lost fewer bags, bumped fewer travelers and logged fewer complaints from passengers in 2008 than in 2007. About 76 percent of flights landed on time during 2008, up from 73 percent in 2007, the government reported.
"The early part of the year dragged us down," said Tim Smith, American spokesman.
Bad weather over American’s hubs at Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago O'Hare airports took a toll on American's on-time record, Smith said. And he also pointed out that the airline's performance in March and April was affected when the Federal Aviation Administration grounded 300 American MD-80 jets for inspections.
That led to thousands of canceled flights before the planes could return to service.
But American's performance improved during the final three months of the year, and the airline finished second, behind US Airways, among large carriers in December.
American officials have taken steps to reduce delays, including adding ground time between flights and building additional time into flight schedules.
"We hope we're seeing the beginning of a trend," Smith said.
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