AA's Answer to Late Flights? More Time

Airline parks planes longer to improve on-time performance.

American Airlines is keeping planes at the gate a little longer to improve the airline's on-time performance, which ranks as the worst in the country.

From January to July, only about 65 percent of American's flights arrived on time.

Passenger Jimmy Sartain called the airline's performance "pretty dismal."

"A lot of times you can't depend on flying the same day you have a meeting; you have to go in the day before," he said.

Mark Mitchell, of American Airlines, was tasked to turn things around. He said the airline was trying to do too much in too little time.

"We had seen something back in the second quarter that 30 to 40 percent of our airplanes arriving into our large cities really had no chance of making the on-time departure," he said.

His solution? Keep planes at the gates a little longer.

The extra five or 10 minutes gives ground crews more time to load and unload the plane, increasing the chances that the next flight will leave on time.

American also added minutes to its scheduled flight times in cities where delays are common, giving customers a more realistic schedule.

Some frequent fliers said they have noticed.

"I know to plan my day. I know when I can expect to be on the ground and out of the terminals, so I think it's a lot better," passenger Brooke Zrno said.

In September, American's on-time percentage jumped to more than 80 percent for the first time this year.

"They're flying us because they have a business meeting, a birthday party, a vacation or a tee time at that downline city, and they need to be able to predict and be reliable as to when they're going to get there," Mitchell said.

Some frequent fliers said some of the new flight times have so much extra time that the planes arrive early when no gates are open. American said it is working to tweak the schedule even more.

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