Delta tops in on-time flights, Spirit worst for complaints

FILE - In this Monday, Aug. 8, 2016, file photo, Delta Air Lines planes are parked at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, in Washington. A California family says they were forced off a Delta plane and threatened with jail after refusing to give up one of their children's seats on a crowded flight. A video of the April 23, 2017, incident was uploaded to Facebook on Wednesday, May 3, 2017, and adds to the list of recent encounters on airlines that went viral, including the dragging of a passenger off a United Express plane. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Delta Air Lines scored the best for on-time flights in the latest government rankings, and United and American weren’t far behind.

Virgin America had the highest rate of delayed flights, and discount carrier Spirit Airlines drew the highest rate of consumer complaints.

The Transportation Department released figures for March on Tuesday. The report covers the 12 largest U.S. airlines.

Through the first three months of the year, airlines bumped one in every 16,000 passengers off a flight — the same rate as in early 2016.

More commonly, airlines find volunteers to give up their seats on overbooked flights — that happened to about one in every 1,500 passengers, slightly less often than in early 2016.

JetBlue had the highest rate of bumping, which it says can occur when a smaller plane replaces a larger one. Delta had the lowest bumping rate and the highest number of volunteers who gave up their seats.

A national debate about bumping and customer service erupted in April after videos showed a man being forcibly pulled off a United Express plane. He had refused to give up his seat to make room for an airline crew member.

United ranks in the middle of the pack for bumping passengers against their will.

In March, 79.9 percent of flights on the 12 largest airlines arrived on time — that’s within 14 minutes of schedule. That was down from the 81.5 percent rate in March 2016.

Delta had an 86.9 percent on-time rate, followed by Hawaiian, United and American. Only 65.5 percent of Virgin America flights arrived on time.

Airlines canceled 1.8 percent of domestic flights, up from 1.0 percent a year earlier.

Consumer complaints filed with the government fell by nearly one-third, with Spirit continuing to have the highest complaint rate. The lowest rate belonged to ExpressJet, which operates regional flights for bigger airlines.

Many more consumers complain directly to the airlines, but the carriers do not disclose those figures.

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The Transportation Department report can be found at http://bit.ly/2pGPpje

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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