Only 78% of Canadian summer flights on time

STEFANIA MORETTI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:45 PM ET

U.S. flight delays are way up, and the situation appears just as nerve-racking for Canadian flyers, according to data compiled by QMI Agency.

Through June and July - the best-weather months of the year - roughly 78% of flights on Canada's three biggest carriers arrive on time, calculations based on data taken from FlyerStats.com show. Transport Canada does not collect its own statistics on the topic.

South of the border, an estimated 76.6% of U.S. flights are on time - the worst record in three years. Flight cancellations are also up over last year.

New York's busy Newark Liberty Airport was by far the worst offender, accounting for 40 of the 100 most-delayed routes, the Wall Street Journal said earlier this month based on Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Flight delays cost more than just time. Airline tardiness put an estimated $32.9-billion dent into the U.S. economy in 2007, and about half that cost was borne by passengers, according to a 2010 study out of the University of California, Berkeley.

In Canada, the most frequently delayed routes appear to be from Toronto to the East Coast, where bad weather is often a factor.

About 30% of WestJet flights from Toronto's Pearson International to Halifax are delayed, while 52% of Air Canada flights to St. John's are late on arrival. Other often delayed routes include Porter Airlines flights out of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport to Windsor, which are late 66% of the time.

Air Canada and WestJet release their own on-time estimates on a quarterly basis.

For the first quarter of 2011 -- typically the snowiest time of year -- Air Canada said 59% of its flights hit the runway on time or within 15 minutes of the scheduled time. That puts Canada's biggest carrier in 17th spot for timeliness, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Hawaiian Airlines ranks No. 1.

During the same period, 76% of WestJet flights were on time.

A number of factors, including weather, aircraft maintenance and air traffic control delays, affect flight times, spokespeople for WestJet and Air Canada told QMI Agency.

"Obviously, after safety, customers also prize on-time performance, and we are fully aware of that and we'll always do our best to keep to our schedule," Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said. "But I think they appreciate that there's sometimes factors outside our control that you can't manage."

stefania.moretti@canoe.ca


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