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PHL on-time performance getting better

The U.S. Department of Transportation reported October airline on-time perfornance today and it shows continuing improvement for PHL and other airports, and for US Airways and other airlines. About 85 percent of arrivals and departures at PHL were no more than 15 minutes behind schedule during the month -- a strong performance considering how often in the past the airport was near the bottom of the list. Recently, it's been finishing in 22nd to 25th place among the 33 largest airports, not bad for a major hub. Details are on the Bureau of Transportation Statistics Web site.

US Airways again, as it has several times this year, had one the best on-time records systemwide in October. In fact, the company says its one of the best monthly performances US has had since it merged with America West more than three years ago. Even more remarkable, US now has one of the better records for lost or damaged checked bags -- an average of 3 per 1,000 passengers. That was even a fraction better than Southwest, one of the perennial leaders. It's still getting more than the average number of consumer complaints, but that measure is declining as well. Read as much detail as you can stand in the DOT's air travel consumer report.

Two factors help explain these industry improvements:

When fuel prices spiked last summer, airlines began making big cuts in flight schedules, reducing air-traffic congestion and helping remaining flights stay on time.

Checked-bag fees mean fewer people are checking bags, giving the airlines fewer chances to lose yours.