There were 2.77 reports of mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers in May, better than May 2011's rate of 3.54 but up from April 2012's rate of 2.63. As Airlines for America points out, 99.7% of all passengers had their bags properly delivered, an all-time record for any May since the government began keeping records in 1987. The previous record was set in May 2010.
Alan Bender, professor of Aeronautics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, attributes that to baggage fees, however.
"As baggage fees go higher and higher and higher, people just carry more bags on the plane," he says. "The system runs smoother when there are fewer checked bags on every flight."
But is it real?
Still, the numbers give a sense of smooth and successful air travel. And that, some analysts say, is illusory.
Analysts point out that airlines have been strategic when building their schedules. The actual amount of time a plane stays in the air is much less than the amount of time they tell passengers it will take to pull out of the departure gate and arrive at the destination gate.
"Some choose to adjust and build in more time, and cost, seasonally, which ironically may not have been needed due to the better-than-anticipated flying environment, but nevertheless contributes to improved on-time performance," says Robert Mann, president of R.W. Mann and Co., which provides industry analysis.
Not that there's anything wrong with that, Boyd says. "That's telling customers the truth," he says.
John Heimlich, chief economist for Airlines for America, acknowledges that so-called block times, or the time from gate to gate, have risen the last two decades as runway taxi time has gone up. But, he says, airlines recently have tried to shave off some of the time because it costs them money to reserve pilots. Plus, he says, it hurts them against competitors.
"Padding is a subjective term. It's what I call honest advertising," he says. "Why not make it 99%? Why would you pad and make it 83%?"
Padding or no padding, passengers still aren't completely satisfied with airlines these days. There were 935 consumer complaints against U.S. airlines in May. In May of last year, there 904.