by Matt Alderton | February 13, 2013
The largest U.S. airlines received high marks from the federal government in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDT), which yesterday released its annual “Air Travel Consumer Report” showing fewer mishandled bags, more on-time arrivals, a lower number of long tarmac delays and a low rate of canceled flights.

Mishandled baggage: Specifically, carriers posted a rate of 3.09 reports of mishandled baggage per 1,000 passengers, down from 3.35 in 2011 and the lowest annual rate of mishandled baggage in the 25 years that USDT has collected the data.

On-time arrivals: The 15 largest U.S. airlines posted an 81.85 percent on-time arrival rate during 2012, the third-highest annual performance in the 18 years that USDT has collected comparable data. Airlines only performed better in 2002 and 2003, when the rate was 82.14 percent and 81.96 percent, respectively.

Canceled flights: The 15 largest U.S. airlines had a 1.29 percent cancellation rate, which is the second lowest in the last 18 years, the lowest being 1.24 percent in 2002.

Tarmac delays: There were 42 tarmac delays longer than three hours on U.S. domestic flights in 2012, down from 50 in 2011, the first full year that USDT’s rule limiting tarmac delays was in effect. Exceptions to the three-hour rule are only allowed for safety, security or air traffic control-related reasons.

“This remarkable decrease in flight delays, tarmac incidents, cancellations and mishandled bags is a tribute both to the hard work of the airlines and the Department of Transportation’s oversight of the aviation industry,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “We will continue to work with the carriers to make air travel more convenient and hassle-free for consumers.”

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