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Flight Stats
Thanksgiving '08
Air Travel Report Card
December 1, 2008
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In this issue .....
On-time Performance - A Great Start. An Ugly Finish
The Best and Worst Airports
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Thanksgiving '08 Weekend Travel - A Great Start. An Ugly Finish
This past holiday weekend, US air travelers might have expected a break from the delays of the past. Airlines had posted improved on-time performance numbers for five months straight. Passenger numbers were expected to down from previous years. And the FAA had opened up military airspace to accommodate the traffic.

In fact it started out looking very, very good. Tuesday through Friday, flights arrived at their destinations on time over 80% of the time. Thursday and Friday numbers even exceeded 90% easily besting the industry's 2006 and 2007 performances.

But Mother Nature stepped in to deal a humbling blow and expose the vulnerability of the US commercial air travel system to weather. Saturday's numbers dropped below that day's performance in the past 2 years but still approached 80%. Travelers who waited until Sunday for their return trips experienced a truly dismal travel day as heavy rain and snow caused delays in the upper Midwest and Northeast and long delays rippled through the entire system. Less than 50% of flights arrived on time on Sunday. The graph below shows the trends and compared 2008 to the same weekend in the 2006 and 2007.

Delays, on average, hovered in the tolerable mid-forty minute range Tuesday through Saturday then zoomed up to over 70 minutes on Sunday when over 29% of flights arrived greater than 44 minutes late. Four and five hour delays were commonplace on Sunday.

Sunday also brought a huge spike in cancelled flights.

Those who were thinking that the US air travel delay problems were a thing of the past will have some rethinking to do.
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Airport Report - the Best and Worst
A look at the individual airports showed that every day had its dog.

Boston Logan struggled mightily on Tuesday barely cracking the 35% on-time arrival level with nearly as many flights arriving > 44 minutes late. La Guardia was the second worst airport for arrivals that day at 63%.

San Francisco (SFO) took over on Wednesday and Thursday as the worst airport for arrivals with 66% and 62% marks.

Friday was a very good day to travel with more than 90% of flights arriving on time across the entire system.

Atlanta-Hartsfield (ATL) posted the worst numbers on both Saturday and Sunday. On-time arrivals at ATL plummeted to 29% on Saturday and then got worse, much worse, dropping to just over 12% on Sunday. There must be lots of haggard-looking Atlantans in their offices today, assuming they made it home at all.

As for the best overall performance through the weekend, Salt Lake City was the best destination with nearly 91% of its flights arriving on time. Oakland, Memphis, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Dallas/FortWorth, and Detroit all averaged better than 86% on-time arrivals for the Thanksgiving Holiday.

You can download the data for Thanksgiving '08 in a spreadsheet by clicking here
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