Breakdown of Average Flight Departure & Arrival Delays by Carrier
Excludes Cancelled & Diverted Flights (in minutes)

Airline

Departure delay time average

Arrival delay time average

American

6.4

3.5

Alaska

28.6

29.1

Continental

6.0

3.1

Delta

6.1

1.4

America West

13.4

11.8

Northwest

10.0

8.3

TWA

6.8

7.1

United

29.4

33.0

USAir

3.8

5.1

Southwest

7.1

4.5

U.S. Airlines Restore Some Seat Capacity
Cut After Sept. 11, as Demand Recovers

 

As demand for air travel inches back up following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, U.S. carriers are selectively restoring some of the 20% of seat capacity they had cut in response to fears of flying.

 

Passenger traffic has steadily moved toward recovery as passenger confidence has increased and airlines have offered aggressive airfare sales and frequent-flier bonuses aimed at luring travelers back to the skies. On a year-over-year basis, for example, domestic traffic was down 32.5% in September, 21.1% in October, 17.7% in November and 13.2% in December, according to the Air Transport Association.

But air travel is far from a full recovery. Capacity at big airlines will remain about 13% lower this year for the first three months compared with last year, according to Salomon Smith Barney analyst Brian Harris.

Air Transport Association chief economist David Swierenga said he thinks the industry is still on target to return to normal traffic levels by midyear. UAL Corp.'s United Airlines was one of the carriers that cut its flight schedule most significantly after Sept. 11, reducing capacity by 23%, or nearly 500 flights. The airline has restored little capacity thus far, but said Friday it will add 127 daily flights in its April schedule.

 

In many cases, carriers pared capacity by reducing the numbers of daily flights to cities without pulling out of the markets completely. Carriers also cut many early-morning and late-night flights -- the ones most likely to have the lightest traffic loads.

Now, some flights are being restored, some airlines are swapping larger jets for the smaller ones put in place after the attacks and several carriers, including AMR Corp.'s American Airlines and Northwest Airlines, have rebuilt late-night connecting banks of flights at some hub airports.

 

American has cautiously added flights back to its Dallas-Fort Worth hub. After initially grounding 21.6% of its Dallas flights, American is flying 85% of its pre-Sept. 11 schedule and plans to get back to 91% by March 2. Northwest said its first-quarter capacity is down about 14% from a year earlier, and it expects the second quarter to be down about 12.5%.

Continental Airlines and Delta Air Lines are taking a cautious approach as well. For the fourth quarter, Continental's capacity was down 14.9%. President Larry Kellner said recently that he expects capacity to be down 13% in the first quarter and 11% in the second quarter this year.

 

At Delta, Chairman and Chief Executive Leo F. Mullin has said he would rather follow other carriers than lead the way in restoring capacity. Delta's capacity was down 11.4% in the fourth quarter, compared with the year-earlier period.

America West Holdings Corp. has added back about one-third of the 20% in capacity cuts it made after Sept. 11, and Alaska Air Group Inc., which also cut 20%, says capacity will be fully restored by Sunday.

US Airways Group Inc., which cut its capacity 23% after Sept. 11, has been hampered by flight restrictions at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. US Air said its system-wide departures were still down 16.1% at the beginning of January compared with its schedule before Sept. 11. US Air had 186 daily departures at Reagan National, more than any other carrier, before Sept. 11. By March, the carrier will be authorized for 153 daily Reagan National departures, a spokesman said.