Houston Airports Near Top of On-Time List

A new study ranks Houston near the top of major metropolitan areas when it comes to on-time air travel. David Pitman reports.

The Brookings Institution took a different approach in this year's study of air travel delays.  Instead of focusing on individual airports around the country, it looked at metro areas as a whole.

In that regard, Houston is a very close second to Los Angeles when it comes to on-time arrivals — with just over 82-percent of flights at Intercontinental and Hobby landing on schedule.  That's a 4.5% percent improvement over last summer.

Adie Tomer is a research analyst who worked on the Brookings report.  He says two factors that help Houston score high with on-time arrivals are the generally favorable weather conditions, and a generous amount of airspace.

"By being a southern metropolitan area, especially right essentially adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico, there aren't as many problems with flights coming from other metropolitan areas coming through its airspace.  So this really assists helps Houston in being able to manage its high levels of air traffic."

Even though on-time performance has improved in Houston, Tomer says when arrivals are delayed, people are losing more time — an average of nearly 59 minutes, up six percent in the last year.

"This does have serious impacts for Houston's ability to be competitive in a globalized economy.  But, at the same time, I think the real key result for Houston is that with stellar on-time performance, the system is running efficiently, especially in comparison to other metropolitan areas."

Tomer says the frequency and length of delays will increase when the economy begins to show stronger signs of recovery.  But he adds that can be minimized by continued investment in airport facilities and more efficient operating procedures.

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David Pitman

Local Host, Morning Edition

The one question David hears most often isn't "What is it like to work for an NPR member station?" or "Have you ever met Terry Gross?" (he has)...