The nation’s airlines struggled to stay on schedule in April, with nearly one in four flights arriving late, according to new government figures.
The airlines blamed furloughs of federal air traffic controllers and bad weather. A nationwide computer outage at American Airlines added to the slowdown.
The Transportation Department said Thursday that among the 16 airlines that report such information, only 77.3 percent of flights arrived on time in April. That was down sharply from 86.3 percent in the same month last year and below the April average of 80.26 percent for the previous 18 years.
Nearly 2 percent of all domestic flights were canceled in April, almost double the rate from the previous April.
Asked for an explanation, Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for trade group Airlines for America replied, “Short answer? Government-imposed air traffic controller furloughs.”
In mid-April the Federal Aviation Administration began ordering about 10 percent of its controllers to stay home each day to help the agency meet automatic spending cuts. With fewer controllers to watch busy airspace, such as around New York and Washington, D.C., traffic slowed. After five days of complaints by airlines and passengers, Congress rushed through a bill to end the furloughs.
The airlines told the Transportation Department that 34.3 percent of April’s delays were caused by bad weather, up from 28.5 percent in April 2012. They said that only 5.3 percent of delays were because of factors within their control, such as maintenance problems or crew shortages, although that was a slight increase over April 2012.
Hawaiian Airlines, Sea-Tac-based Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines had the best on-time marks, with each more than 85 percent, the government said.
The worst performance was turned in by American Eagle, with just 67 percent of flights arriving on time. Eagle is the regional airline of AMR Corp., whose American Airlines subsidiary had the poorest rating among the nation’s five biggest carriers.
Among the busiest 29 U.S. airports, passengers were most likely to be delayed on their way to Newark, N.J. — only 65.6 percent of flights arrived on time. At Salt Lake City, however, 85.3 percent of flights arrived within 14 minutes of schedule, which is the government’s definition of on time.
Meanwhile, increased summer travel is responsible for delays at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport security lines, the airport and Transportation Security Administration said this week.
About 150 passengers have missed a flight on Alaska Airlines since Sunday because of waits of more than an hour in security lines, airline spokeswoman Marianne Lindsey said Thursday.
“Summer travel season is on,” she said.
The airline is sending text messages to travelers advising them to prepare for an hour at security checkpoints, she said.
The worst times are between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. when Alaska has 60 flights departing.
Alaska is the largest single carrier at Sea-Tac.
The airport advises passengers to arrive two hours early, said spokeswoman Christina Faine.
Sea-Tac averages about 100,000 passengers a day from June through August, compared with about 85,000 off-season.
“The length of lines at security checkpoints varies by airport and travel season. A fluctuation in wait times can be seen especially during peak travel such as summer break,” regional Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said.
Wait times Thursday morning were around 9 minutes, she said.