Tuesday, Jan. 5, 1999 | 10:14 a.m.
Sunny weather keeps flight delays to a minimum at McCarran International Airport.
It also helps that Southwest Airlines, which prides itself in its ability to unload and load a plane in 30 minutes or less, is the largest carrier at McCarran.
Statistics from the Office of Airline Information of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics show most of the major delays to and from McCarran are to East Coast destinations -- those served by larger jets that take longer to load.
The bureau tracks the records of major national airlines in their on-time performance, cancellations and flight diversions. Reno Air, considered a regional carrier, was not included in the statistics.
For the first nine months of 1998, the worst flight to Las Vegas was America West's non-stop from Newark, N.J., which arrived 15 minutes or later 61 percent of the time and arrived an average 43.5 minutes late. The same route, served by Continental Airlines, was more than 15 minutes late 25 percent of the time and was late by an average 6.8 minutes.
One other flight arrives late nearly half the time -- America West's from New York's John F. Kennedy Airport, which comes in more than 15 minutes late 49 percent of the time.
Flights that come in more than 20 minutes late on average: America West's service from New York's Kennedy Airport (25.9 minutes late); Wichita, Kan. (25.5 minutes); San Francisco (24.8), Miami (21.6), Philadelphia (21.5), Indianapolis (21.2) and Seattle (21.1); and United's flights from Los Angeles (21.7) and San Francisco (21.6).
Three flights arrive late from Las Vegas more often than on time, according to the statistics.
America West's flights to Boston arrive more than 15 minutes late 56 percent of the time with the average arrival 32 minutes late. The airline's flights to Newark are more than 15 minutes late 58 percent of the time and arrive an average 30.6 minutes late. And, America West's flights to Baltimore are late 57 percent of the time, averaging 26.8 minutes late.
Flights to Las Vegas are rarely diverted, but occasional quick-developing storms prevent scheduled landings for lengthy flights. The highest percentage of diverted flights occurred on America West's operations from Chicago's Midway Airport, on which 9 percent of the 304 flights in the first nine months of 1998 had to be switched.
Thirteen of USAir's 608 flights from Philadelphia were diverted (2 percent) and five of Southwest Airline's 316 operations from Austin, Texas, (2 percent) also had to be switched.
Most of the flights canceled to Las Vegas were the result of a pilots' strike on Northwest Airlines. Statistics showed 10 percent of Northwest's 210 flights from Los Angeles were canceled in the nine months and 8 percent of the 304 flights from Memphis, Tenn., and 7 percent of the 1,237 from Minneapolis were canceled. Delta Air Lines also had an 8 percent cancellation rate on its 649 flights from Phoenix.
Airlines have mixed success on the most popular route in and and out of Las Vegas. Of the six airlines flying from Las Vegas to Los Angeles International Airport, Northwest has the best on-time rate, arriving 1.5 minutes early on average for its 210 flights. Other rates to Los Angeles: Delta Air Lines, 2.5 minutes late in 1,307 operations; Southwest Airlines, 6.2 minutes late on 5,442 flights; Alaska Airlines, 8.9 minutes late on 84 flights; United Airlines, 9.7 minutes late on 3,247 flights; and America West, 16.9 minutes late on 3,324 flights.
Airlines have less air traffic and weather to contend with coming to Las Vegas from Los Angeles. Northwest arrived about 6.3 minutes early on average while Alaska (3.5 minutes), Delta (4.3), Southwest (7), America West (12.5) and United (13.8) were late.
Which routes had the best on-time averages? Southwest's 621 operations from Nashville, Tenn., checked in an average 6.4 minutes early. Close behind were Northwest's 210 flights from Los Angeles, which arrived 6.3 minutes early on average, and Southwest's 30 flights to Spokane, Wash., (6 minutes early).
Outbound, Southwest's 30 flights to Spokane arrived an average 7.8 minutes early and Delta's 240 flights to Portland, Ore., got in an average 5.9 minutes early for the nine months.