We all know that some flights are more prone to delays than others. But some trips just seem destined for failure.
Take American Eagle flight 3637 from Miami to Charlotte, North Carolina. Passengers on that flight in April did not arrive on time once. That's right, every single day of the month the 1 hour, 55 minute flight was late. The average delay: an hour and 2 minutes.
And that was just the average delay.
On May 31, for example, the plane got in at 9:40 p.m. -- three hours behind schedule.
American Eagle 3637 was the worst offender, according to an analysis of Department of Transportation statistics, but it certainly wasn't alone in its tardiness.
Southwest flight 1602 from Phoenix to Denver averaged delays of 42 minutes during April. Only five times during the month did the flight arrive on-time.
For passengers flying today, there are plenty of hassles, from taking shoes off at security to fighting for overhead bin space. But ultimately the goal is to get people safely to their destination -- hopefully, on time.
With fewer planes in the sky than there have been in years, overall on-time performance is improving. The 18 airlines that report statistics to the federal government were on time 85.3 percent of the time in April, compared with a rate of 79.1 percent a year earlier and 80 percent in March, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Yet a handful of flights remained nightmares for travelers. Anybody who booked a ticket on one of these trips was almost certainly guaranteed a late arrival.
"These systemic delays are a logistical nightmare for airlines. They have a finite number of planes, pilots, gates, and if they end up in a situation when they've overextended themselves and can't operate it on time, there are limited options to fix it without a significant schedule change," said Daniel Baker, chief executive officer of the flight-tracking site FlightAware.com. "Given the challenges that airlines are facing and the need to operate tight schedules in order to hopefully achieve their thin profit margins, these kind of problems aren't going away overnight."
There are plenty of things that savvy travelers can do to avoid these problematic flights. The first is to check historic on-time performance. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics offers a database of airline on-time statistics which allows people to search by specific flight numbers.
Travelers can also make some smart picks. First, try to fly non-stop, advises Rick Seaney, CEO of airfare-search site FareCompare.com and an ABCNews.com columnist. However, avoiding a connection can add significantly to ticket prices, sometimes as much as tripling them, Seaney said. If connecting, think about the weather in that city. In winter, it might be worth adding an hour to your trip to fly through a warm-weather city. In summer, try to avoid airports that are prone to thunderstorm delays.
The DOT soon will require airline to post on-time statistics when people book tickets (though the airlines are seeking an extension). A flight is considered late if it arrives 15 minutes or more past the scheduled time of arrival.