A silver lining in the friendly skies: Airlines are leaving on time

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Although delays have long been an expected part of the air travel experience, 2007 marked something of a high point for lengthy layovers; over the course of that year, 25% of all domestic flights failed to arrive on time. While Fall 2008 has shown marked improvement over the past year, a few airlines are still vying for the title of the most delayed flight in the USA. According to USA Today, the winner is American Airlines' flight 1267 from Miami to San Juan, which was late 86.7% of the time in October, the latest data available.

Also tops on the list: Comair flight 6273 from Cleveland to Atlanta was late 82.8% of the time.

On the bright side for those stuck waiting for those flights, Miami International Airport has La Carreta, a well-reviewed Cuban restaurant, while Cleveland Hopkins International Airport has several local restaurants and two local breweries. With a little planning and the right flight to Atlanta or San Juan, you can continue to experience the joys of air travel, 2007 style!


Holiday Travel = Waiting?

    **FILE** In this Feb. 10, 2006 file photo, tourists relax enjoying the sunset on a beach in the Caribbean city of Cartagena, Colombia. Several carriers have said that advance bookings for the 2008-2009 holiday season, show their planes are expected to be as full as or fuller than a year ago in part because they have taken so many seats out of the air. (AP Photo/Ricardo Maldonado, file)

    AP

    PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 16: Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and his wife Cindy McCain are joined by campaign staff while transfering from his airplane to a helicopter at the Philadelphia International Airport October 16, 2008 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Due to airport delays in Newark, McCain had to take a helicopter to Manhattan so to make it to his appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** John McCain;Cindy McCain

    Getty Images

    PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 16: Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and his wife Cindy McCain are joined by campaign staff while transfering from his airplane to a helicopter at the Philadelphia International Airport October 16, 2008 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Due to airport delays in Newark, McCain had to take a helicopter to Manhattan so to make it to his appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** John McCain;Cindy McCain

    Getty Images

    A special opera performance is staged in Xian, northern China's Shaanxi province on September 30, 2008 to celebrate China's National Day which falls on October 1. Millions of Chinese are spending their week-long October 1 National Day holidays travelling to various tourist spots and attractions throughout the country. CHINA OUT GETTY OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

    AFP/Getty Images

    A special opera performance is staged in Xian, northern China's Shaanxi province on September 30, 2008 to celebrate China's National Day which falls on October 1. Millions of Chinese are spending their week-long October 1 National Day holidays travelling to various tourist spots and attractions throughout the country. CHINA OUT GETTY OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

    AFP/Getty Images

    A special opera performance is staged in Xian, northern China's Shaanxi province on September 30, 2008 to celebrate China's National Day which falls on October 1. Millions of Chinese are spending their week-long October 1 National Day holidays travelling to various tourist spots and attractions throughout the country. CHINA OUT GETTY OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

    AFP/Getty Images

    A special opera performance is staged in Xian, northern China's Shaanxi province on September 30, 2008 to celebrate China's National Day which falls on October 1. Millions of Chinese are spending their week-long October 1 National Day holidays travelling to various tourist spots and attractions throughout the country. CHINA OUT GETTY OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

    AFP/Getty Images

    A special opera performance is staged in Xian, northern China's Shaanxi province on September 30, 2008 to celebrate China's National Day which falls on October 1. Millions of Chinese are spending their week-long October 1 National Day holidays travelling to various tourist spots and attractions throughout the country. CHINA OUT GETTY OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

    AFP/Getty Images

    Visitors admire the miniature figurines on display at an art exhibition in Xian, northern China's Shaanxi province on September 30, 2008. Millions of Chinese are spending their week-long October 1 National Day holidays travelling to various tourist spots and attractions throughout the country. CHINA OUT GETTY OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

    AFP/Getty Images

    A Chinese visitor admires the miniature figurines on display at an art exhibition in Xian, northern China's Shaanxi province on September 30, 2008. Millions of Chinese are spending their week-long October 1 National Day holidays travelling to various tourist spots and attractions throughout the country. CHINA OUT GETTY OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

    AFP/Getty Images

In 2007, as congestion, union disputes, and aging airplanes made air travel a slow, dicey proposition, airline travelers had to change expectations. Rather than viewing airports as gateways to exotic vacation spots, wise tourist started viewing them as destinations, in and of themselves. For the savvy tourist, "destination airports" became the name of the game.

That's how I looked at the situation when I planned my trips that year. Recognizing that there was a significant chance that I would end up spending several hours waiting for one flight or another, I packed a lot of books, wore layered clothing, and scoped out the attractions at the various airports that I would be visiting. Consequently, when I found myself dealing with an 8-hour delay at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, I had already plotted out my food itinerary: a big bowl of Cincinnati five-way chili at Gold Star, one or two cups of coffee from Peet's, and a mini-pizza from Wolfgang Puck's. In between meals, I checked out the aviation exhibits, read my books, and exercised by doing laps in the concourse. All in all, it was a fairly pleasant day.

Unfortunately, the wonderful days of airport exploration may be behind me. According to a recent article, a combination of higher fuel prices and increased demand have led many carriers to cut back on flights. The reduced congestion has, in turn, led to an impressive increase in the rate of flights arriving on time. In September, 2008, almost 85% of U.S. flights arrived on time. By comparison, 81.7% of September 2007's flights were on time and August 2008 flights were on schedule a mere 78.4% of the time. Clearly, reduced demand has been a good thing for the airline industry: given fewer travelers, they seem to be able to give much better service.

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He also has a warm spot in his heart for O'Hare airport, which has one of the best sandwich places he's ever visited.

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