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Travel Delays, the Best and the Worst Airlines

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When flights are delayed, travelers can be stranded in an airport overnight, without there bags and connecting flights might continue as scheduled without them.  If a delay continues, travelers could miss a significant portion of their trip.  Travel insurance can help in these types of situations as most plans include coverage for travel delay, baggage delay, missed connection and trip interruption.  A recent article from MSNBC addressed the best and worst airlines for delays and also cite some of the common reasons why.

The best and worst airlines for delays can vary quite a bit from year to year. So, as we do annually, Travel + Leisure consulted the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, which monitors the percentage of on-time arrivals for major U.S. airlines. This time, we checked out the 12-month period ending in June 2010—and found some big surprises.

First, the good news: the overall on-time performance for the 18 airlines tracked jumped almost 4% in the past year—flights arrived on time 79.7% of the time, up from 76.1% in 2009. That means that just about all the carriers surveyed (even those at the bottom of the list) experienced some improvement in their rate of on-time flights.

Within the rankings on our best-and-worst list, however, there were some big shifts this year. Several of last year’s high achievers, including Pinnacle and AirTran, experienced increased delay rates that were significant enough to send them into free fall in the rankings. Other airlines, like Continental and United, made up the difference by radically reducing their number of delays, and nabbing the top-ranked spots from their competitors.

The reasons for such dramatic changes can be harder to ascertain than the performance rates themselves. But the causes reported for delays by the airlines surveyed (also collected by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics) cite late-arriving connecting flights, air-traffic-control issues, airplane maintenance or repair, and bad weather as the most frequent problems. Year to year, depending on their routes, hubs, personnel, and equipment, certain airlines may experience a bigger share of those troubles.

Airline delays, whether from mechanical failure, bad weather or even labor strikes can trigger travel insurance coverage.

Travel delay can reimburse the costs of lodging, meals and local transportation during a delay.  Most plans require a delay to last a certain amount of time, which can be 5 to 12 hours.  Also, there is usually an overall dollar limit as well as a daily dollar limit.

Baggage delay helps travelers who are without their bags by reimbursing the costs of essential items, such as a change of clothes and toiletries, during the delay.  The bags must be delayed for a set amount of time, normally 24 or 48 hours, before coverage is available.

Missed connection coverage reimburses the transportation costs of catching up to the scheduled trip after a delay.  Like travel delay and baggage delay, missed connection coverage also requires the traveler be delayed for a pre-determined amount of time, which can be as little as 3 hours.  Look closely at different policies because some only cover a missed cruise or tour departure and others don’t have missed connection as its own benefit, rather, it is a part of the trip interruption coverage.

Trip interruption coverage can cover the unused and non-refundable expenses of the trip when travelers are delayed.  This benefit can also reimburse the expenses of catching up to the trip, like missed connection.  The amount of trip interruption coverage is determined by what the traveler entered as trip cost when getting the travel insurance quote.

Always refer to the certificate of insurance for details.

Source: Best and worst airlines for delays