Local News

When It Comes To Punctuality, RDU Runs Late

Posted June 22, 2004

— When was the last time you had an airline flight that took off and landed on time? If you flew out of

Raleigh-Durham International Airport

, you may have to think back.

The latest on-time and departures numbers are out. RDU ranks near the bottom when it comes to punctuality.

Delays are a fact of life when it comes to flying. An RDU spokesperson said there is not much the airport can do about it.

The problem? Mother Nature and, of course, other airports.

Call it the great wait. Plenty of people heading in and out of RDU are used to hearing the word: delayed.

"We think it was air traffic," traveler Bill Howard said. "There were several planes in front of us."

Said traveler David Ripley:"It's always frustrating to sit on a plane going nowhere. That's what I don't like."

According to the Department of Transportation's April numbers, RDU'S on-time performance needs a quick pick-me-up. When compared with more than 200 other commercial airports, RDU ranks 175th in on-time arrivals. And even lower, 189th, for on-time departures.

"This is just something that's part of the airline industry," RDU spokesperson Mindy Hamlin said.

Hamlin said there are three main reasons for delays: Weather, equipment problems, and airport traffic operations typically at the destination airport.

"If something is taking place, for instance, in New York, like the blackout a year ago, that affected flights departing RDU and arriving as well," Hamlin said.

Nevertheless, when compared to airports of similar size, those kinds of problems seem to have a bigger effect on RDU.

In Portland, the on-time arrival rate is 86 percent. St. Louis is the same. In Nashville, it is 83 percent. At RDU, it drops to 80 percent.

For departures, it's a similiar story. In Portland, 89 percent of the flights take off on time. In St. Louis, 88 percent. Nashville and RDU come in at 85 percent.

For those waiting on friends or loved ones, the punctuality issue can be a problem.

RDU feeds to 10 of the East Coast's busiest airports. They have dozens of daily flights going to and from New York and Washington. If there are glitches on that end, it can send things here into a tailspin.

In fact, sometimes it can take 24 to 48 hours to get flights back on track after weather knocks them off course.

Not only does RDU stack up poorly against the competition, so do the airport's major carriers. US Airways, Delta, American and Southwest account for about three of every four flights at RDU. None is in the top 10 for on-time airlines in April, according to the Bureau of Transportation.

US Airways is on time 84 percent of time, Delta and American 83 percent and Southwest 82 percent.

AirTran is the highest-ranking carrier at RDU; it has the fifth-best on-time percentage.

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