Thursday, June 9, 2016

Investigation: Nearly 1,200 flights at Tri-Cities Regional Airport (KTRI) delayed in 2015

Kathryn's Report:

TRI-CITIES, TN (WJHL)- A News Channel 11 investigation revealed nearly one-third of flights required to report on-time performance were delayed at Tri-Cities Regional Airport in 2015.

While some people, like Cathy Wolf, have had good experiences flying through the Tri-Cities airport, “It was great. We came in on time,” others have had problems. “I experience delays [the] majority of time I come here,” said Cheryl Thompson, who flies into the Tri-Cities airport about four times a year. Thompson said her most recent flight was delayed because of engine problems. “It’s rather frustrating.”

Around 450,000 people visit the Tri-Cities airport every year. While airport officials said on-time performance for flights was about 85% last year, federal statistics show 28% of flights required to report on-time performance were delayed in 2015.

Since 1987, the Department of Transportation has required airlines to report on-time performance. Currently,14 airlines are required to report the information, including Delta and Express Jet Airlines. About 50% of the flights in and out of the Tri-Cities do not have to report, according to Kristi Haulsee, director of marketing and air service development for the Tri-Cities Regional Airport Authority.

A flight is counted on-time if it is operated less than 15 minutes later the scheduled time shown in the carrier’s computerized Reservations System, according to the DOT. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics falls under the DOT. BTS records show nearly 1,200 flights were delayed 15 minutes or more in 2015 out of the nearly 4,200 reporting Delta and Express Jet Airlines flights at the Tri-Cities airport. About 400 were delayed an hour or more during that same time. Around 85% of Tri-Cities flights departed early or on-time while 84% arrived on-time or early. Arrival performance is based on arrival at the gate. Departure performance is based on departure from the gate.

News Channel 11 examined complete flight records and found Express Jet Airlines had the most delays during that time period, accounting for about 80% of late departures and arrivals. Records also showed Express Jet had the longest delay reported in the Tri-Cities last year. Flight 5344 from the Tri-Cities to Atlanta, Georgia left nearly 6.5 hours after its scheduled time.

Haulsee said delays over 200 minutes are not normal and several factors could be responsible. “If a flight gets in late and then they’re scheduled for an early flight the next morning there may not be that appropriate rest time in-between so they may have had that extra rest that is required.” Haulsee said pilots are required to get a 10 hour break between flights, including 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep time.

Airlines are also required to report the causes of delays in five broad categories: air carrier, extreme weather, National Aviation System (NAS), late-arriving aircraft, or security. BTS records show flight 5344 was scheduled to leave the Tri-Cities around 6 a.m., but left four hours late because of the air carrier. DOT defines an air carrier delay as a cancellation or delay “due to circumstances within the airline’s control (e.g. maintenance or crew problems, aircraft cleaning, baggage loading, fueling, etc.). The plan was delayed another 90 minute because of a late-arriving aircraft.

BTS records show most of the delays at the Tri-Cities airport in 2015 were caused by air carriers and late-arriving aircrafts, accounting for 20% and 22% respectively. But Haulsee said the BTS statistics do not show the big picture of on-time performance at the airport. She said all Allegiant, Piedmont and PSA flights are excluded from reporting and those flights account for about half of the air traffic. “The big picture is that we have 85 percent on-time rate, which is better than average,” Haulsee said.

According to the DOT, reporting carriers averaged an on-time arrival rate of about 80 percent last year. The latest DOT numbers show Express Jet Airlines had the third lowest on-time arrival rates in February 2016 with 78.5%.

Haulsee said delays can always happen when someone is traveling and suggests people always check their flight status before coming to the airport. You can check flight information on the Tri-Cities Airport website or by checking with the appropriate airline website.

To look at the complete BTS airline on-time performance database click here.

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