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Major airlines' performance improved in '02

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Major airlines arrived on time more and passengers complained less about service last year, thanks to traffic-control changes, good weather and fewer people flying.

The 10 biggest U.S. airlines posted their best on-time record since 1995, when the government started keeping comparable records.

Flights on those airlines arrived within 15 minutes of schedule 82.1 percent of the time last year, up from 77.4 percent in 2001, the Transportation Security Administration reported on Monday.

During 2002, the Transportation Department received 43 percent fewer complaints about airline service than in 2001, according to the report.

``We haven't had the kind of weather problems in recent years that we had in 2000,'' said David Smallen, the transportation statistics bureau spokesman. Weather causes about two-thirds of all delays.

One in four flights arrived or departed at least 15 minutes later than scheduled in 2000, when planes were full and storms were frequent.

The Federal Aviation Administration has since improved air traffic procedures and some airlines changed their schedules to avoid delays, Smallen said.

``When you combine that with cuts in flights the airlines made since 9/11, you're seeing tremendous improvement,'' he said.

Many big airlines have dropped flights because they're making less money, and two declared bankruptcy last year. As a result, there were 12 percent less flights in 2002 than the 5,967,780 in 2001.

The report doesn't identify the causes of flight delays. In June, airlines will have to tell the government why flights are late.
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