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Hurricane Sandy hindered airlines’ October performance

Updated: January 13, 2013 11:09AM



It’s no secret U.S. airlines took a hit in October with the help of a big natural disaster.

That meant a record number of national cancellations and a reason, in part, for a high number of delays for several airlines, including the worst offenders for the month: American Airlines, JetBlue Airways and United Airlines.

Hurricane Sandy played a huge role in 2.8 percent of scheduled October flights being canceled, the highest cancellation rate for an October since airlines began reporting statistics to the government. The storm caused major flight disruptions from October 27 through October 31 and canceled 25,921 flights, compared to 7,985 cancellations in September, according to FlightStats.com.

And if you traveled in October at both Midway and O’Hare airport, you likely experienced delays.

American Airlines averaged the lowest national on-time arrival rate in October, at 67.7 percent, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Department of Transportation. At O’Hare, 25 percent of flights arrived late and 116 were canceled. On average, it took 30 extra minutes for those flights to leave the airport, data shows.

American Airlines spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan said natural disasters did play a role, but said that the airline jumped back in November to make up for a lackluster September and October.

“We were definitely affected by the hurricane and the snowstorm, but our performance in November has improved in comparison to September and October, and it will continue to improve in December,” she said.

The airline cut its schedule by one to two percent in September and October due to several factors, which the airline said included an increase in pilots calling in sick and maintenance reports filed by flight crews.

But pilots denied there was an increase in the number of pilots calling in sick, and also denied maintenance reports were being filed for unimportant matters, saying they posed serious safety issues for the aircraft.

Performance has since improved with a 78 percent on-time November rate — and the Allied Pilots Association last week approved a new contract with the airline.

Meanwhile 25 percent of United flights arrived an average 33 minutes late at O’Hare in October, data shows.

The airline said Sandy impacted operations, reducing the company’s revenue by about $90 million and the company’s profit by about $35 million.

“Our October performance was directly impacted by Superstorm Sandy,” United spokeswoman Mary Ryan said. “Given the structure of our network, we experienced a disproportionate impact on our operations with the majority of delays and cancellations based at our East Coast hubs. Our November performance was well above our goal of 80 percent and we are continuing to see those good results so far in the month of December.”

United last week said it delivered its best monthly on-time performance for 2012 in November, with 85.5 percent of domestic flights and 81.2 percent of flights arriving within 14 minutes of the scheduled arrival time.

The airline said 95 percent of flights arrived on time on Thanksgiving Day, the second best single day since Jan. 1, 2008.



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