Mar 27, 2023 - Business

Southwest Airlines meltdown spiked Sky Harbor delays

Share of flights departing on time from  U.S. airports
Data: BTS; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Sky Harbor's December flight delays were just as bad and unusual as they seemed, according to recently released U.S. Department of Transportation data.

State of play: Just 68% of domestic flights departed Sky Harbor on time in December 2022, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick and Kavya Beheraj report from the department's Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) data.

  • That's down from 81% last November.

The big picture: Sky Harbor's on-time departure rate was slightly worse than the national rate of 69.1% in December.

  • That figure hovers between 75% and 80% in a typical month, albeit with predictable dips in the busy — often meteorologically challenging — summer and winter travel seasons.

Driving the news: The real story in December was, of course, Southwest Airlines' epic meltdown.

  • Only 55.6% of Southwest flights departed Sky Harbor on time in December.
  • Nationally, 57.3% of Southwest's December flights departed on time, compared to 77.2% for Delta Air Lines, 72.5% for American Airlines and 70.7% for United Airlines.

Yes, but: All indications so far suggest Southwest recovered nicely since December, though BTS' data reports lag by about three months.

  • The airline has promised to update key systems that exacerbated December's meltdown, as well as better communicate with passengers whose flights are delayed or canceled in the future.

What they're saying: "We spend a lot of money on technology and recently put in a new state-of-the-art maintenance system, a new reservation system and a new human capital workday system," Southwest CEO Bob Jordan toldAxios' Eleanor Hawkins.


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