Given capacity cuts, why is on-time performance not improving?

From Travel Weekly:

With fewer people flying aboard fewer planes, industry mavens could not agree on why most airlines’ on-time percentages have failed to improve significantly.

Major airlines as a group reported an improvement in on-time arrivals of 2.6 percentage points for 2008 compared with 2007, but analysts said they had expected better.

Though an improvement over 2007, the 2008 on-time percentage was 2.2 points below the industry’s 11-year average. The DOT started keeping track of on-time performance in 1987.

Logic suggests that the airlines should be doing much better with on-time performance, given capacity cuts and traffic decreases, industry experts said.

The reasons they are not doing better might speak to the complexity of airline operations, with their many moving pieces. It could be weather. It could be labor. It could be seasonal congestion.

“That’s a puzzle,” said Robert Poole of the Reason Foundation.

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