November 21, 2011

A departure from the norm, jetport flight delays still happen frequently

A Press Herald analysis finds a number of flights with on-time rates that are sure to frustrate travelers.

By J. Hemmerdinger
Staff Writer

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Travelers at the Portland International Jetport wait in line to pass through security screening on Friday. Delays can worsen around the Thanksgiving and December holidays.

Photos by John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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An air traveler checks flight information at Portland International Jetport on Friday. Flights stick to their schedule at the jetport about 80 percent of the time.

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"You really have to dig to try to find out the truth. And sometimes the truth is not available," she said. "People would be shocked and would probably find alternative means of transportation" if they realized how frequently some flights are late.

"Who wants to go to the airport and sit for hours and hours?" she said.

Hanni's group has supported recent Department of Transportation rules designed to benefit passengers, including limits on how long passengers can sit in planes on the tarmac and requirements that airlines make taxes and fees more transparent. supports the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, which was written by Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. The rights are included in the FAA Reauthorization Bill working its way through congressional committees.

Hanni, who has been an advocate of airline passenger rights since enduring a nine-hour tarmac delay on an American Airlines flight in Austin on Dec. 29, 2006, said the first step to improving delays is collecting more data, which can help regulators understand the scope of the problem.

She also said upgrades are needed to the nation's air traffic systems. "Without infrastructure improvements there will never be less delays. The whole air traffic control system needs to be modernized," she said.

According to the Transportation Department, 84 percent of flights left Portland on time between September 2010 and August 2011, the most recent period for which data is available. Eighty percent of flights arrived on time in the period.

Some months are better than others. In August, only 64.5 percent of jetport arrivals were on time.

Bradbury, the jetport director, attributed the unusually high rate to summer thunderstorms and Hurricane Irene.

He said the jetport has the staff and snow-removal equipment to remain open even during the worst winter snowstorms. The jetport remains open, he said, even when major East Coast hubs shut down.

"Snow delays don't happen in Portland," said Bradbury. "I can't remember the last time we actually closed the airport for snow."

Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be reached at 791-6316 or:


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