American Airlines had the worst on-time performance of any major airline in September, and its labor woes appear to be the reason.
Only 58% of the Fort Worth-based airline's flights were on time in September, compared with 75% in August, according to numbers released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
In contrast, the nation's largest airlines reported an average on-time performance of 83% in September. That's an improvement over the 79% on-time performance in August.
A flight is considered on time if it arrives within 15 minutes of its scheduled arrival time. The best on-time rate, 96%, was reported by Hawaiian Airlines.
"Our recent operating performance was not up to our standards and we have apologized to our customers," airline spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan said. "We're working every day to improve our performance and have seen steady improvement in our on-time metrics and other areas of our operation."
The poor performance by American Airlines was no surprise considering that the airline canceled hundreds of flights and delayed others in September because of an increasing number of calls for maintenance work filed by flight crews and a surge in pilots calling in sick, according to the airline.
The Allied Pilots Assn., the labor group that represents American Airlines pilots, has said its pilots were not involved in any organized work slowdown or job action.
Fagan declined to blame the airline's poor on-time performance on its labor strife.
American Airlines' parent company, AMR Corp., filed for bankruptcy protection in 2011, allowing the carrier to toss out its contract with the pilots union. But the union charged in September that the airline was only paying "lip service" to reaching an agreement with the pilots.
The two sides still seem far from reaching a new contract agreement.
A spokesman for the union said Thursday that the pilots and AMR are in a stalemate over issues such as pay and outsourcing.
"In key areas, we still haven't been able to close the gap with AMR management," union spokesman Gregg Overman said.