February 14, 2017 / 5:09 PM / 7 months ago

U.S. flight cancellations, baggage problems fall to historic lows

WASHINGTON, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Airlines canceled 1.17 percent of scheduled domestic flights last year, the best performance in the 22 years the government has been tracking the issue, the U.S. Transportation Department said on Tuesday.

The department also said air carriers are losing or misplacing luggage at the lowest rate since 1987, when the government began collecting data.

Airlines are also bumping passengers, or involuntarily preventing ticketed passengers from flying, at a record-low rate.

The cancellation rate was a significant improvement over the 1.5 percent of flights canceled in 2015 and fell below the previous low of 1.24 percent in 2002.

Cancellation rates vary with weather and other issues. In December, carriers canceled 1.6 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, compared with 0.3 percent in November.

In 2016, the carriers had a mishandled baggage rate of 2.70 per 1,000 passengers, down from 3.13 per 1,000 in 2015.

Air carriers bumped 0.62 per 10,000 passengers in 2016, compared with a 0.73 rate in 2015. It was the lowest annual rate since 1995 when the government began tracking the issue. The figure does not include passengers who give up seats voluntarily in exchange for airline compensation.

Airlines reported an on-time arrival rate of 81.4 percent, up from 79.9 percent in 2015. A flight is counted as “on time” if it is operated less than 15 minutes after the scheduled time.

Hawaiian Airlines Inc ranked first in on-time flights out of 12 major carriers ranked, followed by Alaska Air Group, Delta Air Lines Inc, Skywest Inc and United Airlines.

Travelers also made fewer complaints.

The U.S. Transportation Department said it received 17,904 complaints last year, down 11.3 percent from 2015. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Alan Crosby)

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