One set of grades was based on the frequency of flights being delayed more than three hours. The group graded each airline based on delays per total flights. So, JetBlue got an F for having one flight delayed for every 2,776 flights, while Alaska earned an A for one three-hour-plus delay for every 137,322 flights.
New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport won the dubious distinction of having the most flights -- 195 flights -- delayed more than three hours.
An airline's on-time performance has taken on new importance since federal regulators adopted penalties last year for airlines that leave passengers stranded on the tarmac too long.
Under new federal regulations that take effect next month, airlines must give passengers the option to disembark if a flight is stuck on the tarmac for more than three hours. Airlines that fail to comply could be fined up to $27,500 per passenger. That could amount to $5.5 million for a jet carrying 200 people.
Most airline representatives are tight-lipped about how they plan to avoid the fines.
But at least one major U.S. airline has devised detailed plans for every airport to ensure that passengers are unloaded from the plane before the three-hour mark, according to an airline representative. He asked not to have himself or his airline identified because he was not authorized to speak on the subject.
In cases in which a delayed plane cannot pull back to the terminal because of congestion, he said, the passengers could be asked to climb out of the plane via a portable staircase onto the tarmac. This could be a nasty scene at Kennedy airport in the dead of winter, he said. "It's going to be pretty ugly."