Virgin America had the best on-time rate in February. (Michael Robinson Chavez…)
The nation's largest airlines set new records in February for the best on-time arrival rates and the lowest lost luggage rates.
The airlines had some help in providing such improved service: February's weather was unusually mild across the country, and airline industry experts say airlines are losing fewer bags because passengers are packing less luggage to avoid bag-check fees.
In February, 86.2% of the flights flown by the nation's airlines arrived on time, up from 74.5% in February 2011 and 83.7% in January of this year, according to Department of Transportation data released Thursday.
That marks the best on-time arrival rate for any February since reporting on that statistic began in 1995, according to the agency. California-based Virgin America had the best on-time rate in February, arriving on time 91.7% of the time.
In addition, the country's largest airlines had 2.64 reports of lost or mishandled bags for every 1,000 passengers, the lowest rate for any month since reporting on that statistic began in 1987.
Also, in February no major airline reported a delay that kept domestic passengers stuck on a tarmac for more than three hours (or four hours for international flights).
Statistics from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show that February was one of the warmest and driest Februaries on record.
The milder weather may have helped airlines keep on schedule. Data collected by Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows the percentage of late flights delayed by weather in February was 32.65%, down from February 2011, when it was 36.38%.
Airline critics contend that airlines are doing a better job of delivering luggage because most passengers are carrying fewer bags to avoid bag-check fees. But it would be difficult to prove that theory because airlines are not required to disclose to the federal government the total number of bags they carry. A federal rule that is set to take effect this summer would require airlines to disclose such data.
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A bag made just to avoid an airline fee