Head of Continental Airlines says they'll cancel instead of pay - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

3/11/10

Head of Continental Airlines says they'll cancel instead of pay

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) -

By Ben Lawson  - bio | email

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - The head of Continental Airlines says they'll cancel flights rather than pay thousands in fines for new delay rules.  The new federal rules take effect next month.

Airlines could be fined thousands per passenger for keeping them on the tarmac for more than three hours.  Continental's CEO says long delays are rare, and new stats give the airline a good rating.

The U.S. Department of Transportation just released new on-time arrival ratings for U.S. carriers, and they show improved performance compared to the same time last year. Overall, the 18 airlines reporting on-time performance scored a rating of 78.7% for January. That's up almost two percentage points from January 2009. Cancellations were up slightly from last year, but tarmac delays of three hours or more were down.

A new, federal rule that takes effect April 29th will fine airlines for keeping passengers stalled on the tarmac for more than three hours. The cost, up to $27,500 per passenger. The U.S. Department of Transportation says new rules will help people pick airlines that don't have tarmac delays or routinely canceled flights.

Continental CEO Jeff Smisek told the Associated Press that many passengers on delayed flights really want to get to their destination, "but the government by God says 'we're going to fine you $27,500.' here's what we're going to do; we're going to cancel the flight."

Of the airlines that serve the South Plains, Continental had the highest on-time arrival rate in January at 82.3%.  Delta followed with 81.4%.  Southwest comes in a close third and American Eagle fourth.

Airlines could see lower ratings for February due to back to back snow storms.  The DOT says airlines have the capability to keep a good schedule. Though, Continental's leaders claim long delays are mostly caused by an outdated traffic control system that the government has not upgraded.

(Click Here) to see the latest airline ratings from the U.S. Department of Transportation. 

Copyright 2010 KCBD. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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