Airlines' on-time rating falls below 80 percent

American Airlines and US Airways jets appear on April 23, 2012, in Arlington, Virginia
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

WASHINGTON The government says that fewer flights arrived on time and more were canceled in March than a year ago, but fewer passengers lodged formal complaints against the airlines.

The Transportation Department said Wednesday that 79.8 percent of flights arrived within 14 minutes of schedule in March. That's down from 82.2 percent in March 2012.

Hawaiian Airlines and Virgin America had the best on-time ratings at better than 87 percent, while regional carrier ExpressJet and JetBlue Airways (JBLU) had the worst at 72 percent. ExpressJet also had the highest rate of canceled flights.

Among the five biggest carriers, Delta Air Lines (DAL) was best at arriving on time, followed by US Airways (LCC), American (AIR), United (UAL) and Southwest (LUV).

At major airports you were most likely to be on time if your flight ended in Phoenix, Salt Lake City or Portland, Ore. Just as in March 2012, the worst big airport for on-time arrivals was Newark, N.J.

The Transportation Department said that it got 943 complaints about airline service from consumers, down 16 percent from March 2012. Over the first three months of the year, however, complaints were up 17 percent from a year earlier.

The rate of lost, delayed or damaged bags was about the same three bags out of every 1,000 passengers and there was a slight increase in passengers who were involuntarily bumped off a flight. Airlines routinely oversell flights because some passengers don't show up.