Airlines Set Records for Being On-Time and Losing Fewer Bags

By Danielle Contray
October 3, 2012
Courtesy <a href="" target="_blank"> Ceo1O17/Flickr</a>

Complaints about airlines may be up, but one thing people can't get too mad about: on–time statistics. According to a new study from the Transportation Department, about 86% of flights arrived on time in April, and only 1.1% of flights were cancelled in the first quarter of 2012. What's the reason behind this surge in punctuality?

According to USA Today, the mild winter coupled with the fact that many airlines have cut back on flights (opening up airspace) makes it easier to be on time.

If you want more good news, fewer bags disappeared as well—only 2.6 out of 1,000 were lost or damaged, the lowest since 1987 (when the department started keeping records).

There is a lot of negative press about airlines, so it's nice to have good news to report. And, honestly, I can't think of one person I know that has had a terrible flight delay this year (or had a bag lost for that matter).

What about you? Has anyone actually been on one of the 14% of flights that were delayed, or has it been smooth sailing so far this year?


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Alaska Airlines to Passengers: Tag Your Own Bags

Alaska Airlines has begun to encourage its passengers to tag their own bags at check-in at Seattle Airport. It plans to roll out the service to other airports this summer. Alaska is the first airline to start self-tagging of luggage, after the government recently gave airlines the go-ahead to make the change. American Airlines, Delta, and Southwest have tested the same system since 2010 and may be the next airlines to ask passengers to tag their own bags at airports nationwide. if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget('c9cded60-97ab-44ad-a1ac-8443930f3c81'); Get the Poll Creator Pro widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info)Passengers will be encouraged to use kiosks to print their own luggage routing tags at the same time as they print their boarding passes. They stick the tags on their luggage. They then carry their bags over to an counter attendant, who will check the passenger's ID, scan the tag to confirm it's legit, and place the bag on a conveyor belt. (Regulations allow this process to be handled by a TSA screener, instead, so the procedure may vary a bit in the details as the program is expanded.) On the positive side, you now can make sure that the baggage tag has been printed correctly. No more accidentally having your bag stickered with the wrong airport code tag. In Europe and Canada, do-it-yourself passenger bag tagging is already common, and lines are not worse than in the United States. At some airports, kiosks can even scan passports to authenticate IDs, making counter agents unnecessary. On the downside, this may slow up the process, especially during holiday travel when many people who aren't practiced flying turn up at the airport. Some people may struggle with the new process. What's your view? Should the airlines follow in Alaska's footsteps and start self-tagging luggage? Or is it a bad idea? Vote in our poll, or leave a comment below. Thanks, and happy holiday weekend! SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Airlines Suspected of Fibbing About Seat Availability for Families (18 comments) MySeatFinder Fetches You a Better Seat Automatically Would You Fly More Frequently If Airplane Seats Were More Comfortable? (50+ comments)


6 Coolest New Theme Parks for This Summer

This summer's new theme-park attractions are throwing the average roller coaster for a loop. On Friday, Universal Studios Hollywood launches the Transformers ride, with motion-simulator vehicles inspired by the science fiction action film. Here's are some highlights about Transformers and other new theme park attractions. Transformers: The Ride 3D At Universal Studios in southern California, you enter the five-minute Transfomers Ride through the a cavern, then ride a vehicle past Autobots and Decepticons fighting each other on 3-D screens overlaid on robotic sets. The $100 million ride is, according to a first-person preview by the editor of Theme Park Insider, Robert Niles, "not just robots moving back and forth and side-to-side. Riding Transformers, you really get a sense of height, and the vertical scale of the figures battling each other." Its Niles's pick as the best ride in Southern California now available. One-day pass to Universal Studios: adults, $80; kids, $72. Cars Land Starting June 15 at Disneyland California Adventure in Anaheim, Calif., you enter the new ride themed on the Cars series down a Route 66 through the town of Radiator Springs. Favorite characters, such as McQueen, Mater, Sally, Finn McMissile, and Holley Shiftwell make pit stops, or guest appearances, throughout&mdash;moving and talking just like in the movies. Kids can test their driving skills on Radiator Springs Racers. adults $87, kids $81. Skyrush Hersheypark, in Hershey, Pa., has a new ride that isn't for the faint of heart: Skyrush is a roller coaster that sends you plummeting 200 feet at 75 mph and includes five zero-G airtime hills. With an 80-degree descent, it has one of the steepest dips at an amusement park in the U.S., and it's the tallest and fastest coaster in the park itself. Skyrush's unique feature is inner/outer seating, with two floored seats bookended on each wing by floorless outer seats. Expect that to become the new industry standard. Adults $57, kids $36. TurtleTrek SeaWorld's outpost in Orlando opened a new ride in April that will appeal to some nature lovers: a first-of-its-kind, 360-degree domed theater that lets you see in 3-D what it's like to be an endangered sea turtle. Visitors to the 7-minute show face an enormous curved screen on which projectors display a computer-generated baby sea turtle named Nyah, and the standing audience will flinch as the baby avoids underwater dangers. SeaWorld admission is adults $82, kids aged 3-9 $74. Aquatica SeaWorld's San Antonio location has this month opened a water park Aquatica with a set of educational thrill rides; expect rafts sailing through grottos with stingrays and a "zero gravity" area that simulates weightlessness. Other new attractions include Sesame Street Bay of Play (opened in 2011), a three-acre space with educational activities for young children. adults, $60; kids 3-9, $50. Angry Birds A new ride themed on Angry Birds, the world's most popular popular smart phone game, opened at S&auml;rk&auml;nniemi Amusement Park in Tampere, Finland, on April 28. The 12 rides are aimed at young children. The highlight is a being pursued by one of the birds. Day pass to full park: adults, $44; kids, $35. VOTE NOW IN BUDGET TRAVEL'S READERS' CHOICE AWARDS Which Is Your Favorite Theme Park? Busch Gardens Williamsburg? Cedar Point? Disneyland? Dollywood? Six Flags Magic Mountain? Universal Studios Orlando? Walt Disney World? Vote in the Readers' Choice Awards by May 31, under the North American Destinations category. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 15 More Places Every Kid Should See Before 15 (120 comments) 5 U.S. Theme Parks Under $50 8 Record-Breaking Theme Park Thrills Should Rome Open a Romaland Theme Park? (10 comments)


Passengers On Virgin Atlantic Will Soon Be Able To Use Cell Phones In-Flight

How many times have you been forced cut off a phone call practically mid&ndash;sentence, or send a frantic "CallyouwhenIland!!" text, seconds before the airplane door closes? Thanks to Virgin Atlantic, that may be a thing of the past&mdash;in the not&ndash;too&ndash;distant future. Passengers traveling between New York and London on the airline's Airbus A330 will soon be able to use their cell phones to talk, text, and surf the web in&ndash;flight. It's a bit of news that's sure to delight business travelers and the occasional text&ndash;addicted teen…and dismay cranky travelers already fed up with crying babies and whirring engines. There is, of course, a catch: in&ndash;flight calls will cost £1 per minute (by current exchange rates, that's about $1.30). As usual, phones will need to remain off for takeoff and landing, and a headset will be required to make calls. And there might be a few bumps to smooth out as the new service is launched: according to Time's Techland blog, Virgin Atlantic estimates that limited bandwidth will allow only 10 calls to be made at a time. Even with a few small hiccups it's still pretty big news: after all, an airplane is one of the last places where you can feel disconnected from the outside world. And if Virgin Atlantic pioneers a trend, who knows? Perhaps Alec Baldwin and Josh Duhamel can stay on the right side of the law from now on. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Tests Show FAA Should Relax Rules About Electronics on Planes Are Airlines Cracking Down on "Airplane Mode?" 4 Best Travel Chargers to Throw in Your Bag


TSA Misstep Causes Teen to Lose Pricey Medical Equipment

There are a lot of jokes at the expense of the TSA, thanks to some ridiculous mistakes and policy misunderstandings on the part of agents. But it's no laughing matter when an agent's ignorance causes a teen traveler's life&ndash;saving medical equipment to malfunction. When 16&ndash;year&ndash;old Savannah Barry&mdash;who is a Type 1 diabetic and wears an insulin pump&mdash;was flying out of the Salt Lake City airport last Monday, she followed the guidelines for diabetic travelers listed on the TSA website and asked for a pat&ndash;down instead. She even presented the agent with documentation that the $10,000 insulin pump should not be taken into a full&ndash;body scanner. But the agent insisted it would be fine and sent her through. Moments later, her insulin pump malfunctioned (see the video below of an interview with Savannah about the incident). To add insult to injury, she was given a pat down&mdash;exactly what she had requested in the first place&mdash;in addition to her trip through the body scanner after TSA agents spotted her insulin and the juice she was traveling with to prevent low blood sugars. Savannah’s mother was told by a representative of Animas (the company who made her insulin pump) to have her unplug the device as soon as she landed and rely on insulin shots until further notice. Luckily she was able to obtain another insulin pump&mdash;evidently another pump company heard her story and sent it to her after she returned home to Colorado. We contacted the TSA to get their official statement: “TSA has spoken with the passenger and a member of her family regarding her screening experience and we will continue to communicate directly with the family to address their concerns. TSA works regularly with a broad coalition of advocacy groups representing passengers with disabilities and medical conditions to better understand their needs. Signage posted at security checkpoints where advanced imaging technology (AIT) is used informs passengers that AIT is always optional for all passengers, including those traveling with medical devices.” Traveling with a medical device can be complicated. This story really struck a nerve with me&mdash;I’m not a Type 1 diabetic, but my younger sister, April, is. She was diagnosed at 14 and has been living with an insulin pump ever since. On family vacations, she’s had to pull TSA agents aside and explain her situation, show them the insulin pump, and be led to the side for a pat down that ends with swabbing her hands for bomb residue. There is nothing like watching your little sister follow the rules only to have everyone else in line staring at her like she’s a criminal, wondering what she did to deserve a pat down at the airport. But this is her only option if she wants to get on that plane, since she cannot go through the full&ndash;body scanner with her “electronic pancreas,” as she calls it. So what’s your take on all this? Do you think it's unfair to blame the entire TSA for one agent's misstep or do you think this is a sign that the entire organization needs an overhaul? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 7 Surprising Items That Set Off Airport Security Top 10 TSA Checkpoint Freakouts, Humiliations, and Confrontations Busted for Bringing Cupcakes and Bagels Through TSA Checkpoints?