Turbulence

(AP / CBS)
It's been a rough year for airline passengers. If you're among the more than 600 million Americans who buckled in before take-off last year, chances are your ticket price was up, your plane was packed and, according to a new government report, there was a good chance that you landed late.

One out of every four flights arrived at their destinations late or not at all last year, according to a report from the Department of Transportation -- that's the airlines' worst on-time record since before 9/11. What's worse is that four million of you, or one out of every 149 passengers who checked luggage, watched the baggage claim carousel go round and round only to find that your bag was lost, damaged, or put on the wrong plane -- The airlines haven't bungled baghandling that badly since 1990.

What's the cause of all your mile-high misery?

Well, the airlines are to blame for losing your bags, but so are the terrorists who plotted to blow up U.S.-bound flights from London. The liquid restrictions that were rushed into service in response to the plot but remain largely in place today, are making passengers check more bags, and the more bags the airlines have to handle, the more likely they are to mishandle some of them.

As for the record 1,615,537 flights that were delayed last year, the answer's is a bit more complicated: Weather is at least partly to blame, with December snowstorms grounding many frustrated holiday travelers, but the real reason on-time arrivals are on the rise is that financially strapped airlines are flying more and more passengers in fewer and fewer planes, which means they're more likely to hold those full flights and wait for the weather to clear up instead of cancelling them. That brings us to this storm cloud's silver lining: The number of cancelled flights last year was a little over half what it was in 2001.
  • Carter Yang

    Carter Yang is a Washington, D.C.-based producer for the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley. He covers aviation and transportation.

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