Tough Month To Be A Houston Flier

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October was really a tough month to be an air passenger in Houston.

The federal Bureau of Transportation has released its latest survey of flight delays, and Houston plays a prominent role in it.

The third-worst airline when it came to on-time arrivals was our very own Continental. Almost 19 percent of the airline's arrivals were late in October.

But it's in the category of "Longest Tarmac Delays" that Houston really shines.

The stats list six flights in that category, and five of them involve Houston:

Topping the list, an October 15 flight from Birmingham, Alabama to Houston waited on the tarmac 308 minutes (that's over five hours, for you non-math geeks).

Also on that date, a flight from here to Wichita was on the tarmac 256 minutes and a flight from Wichita to here kept people trapped in their seats 244 minutes (We sincerely hope no one was on a quick round-trip to Wichita that day.

A week later, a flight to Love Field sat for 269 minutes, and one from Kansas City for 244 minutes.

All the flights involve something called ExpressJet, and we guess if an airline's name is preceded by "something called" in a sentence, that might be a pretty good indicator of on-time performance.

We've got calls in to the feds and to ExpressJet (which has an "answering service," something we thought went out in the `70s); we'll update if there are any explanations.

Update: The feds don't have any information on the causes of tarmac delays; an ExpressJet spokeswoman is digging for details.

Update 2: ExpressJet's Kristy Nicholas says the delays were weather-related. And if your next question is "Wouldn't that affect all the other airlines, too?" she notes that Houston is a main hub for ExpressJet. Airlines with only a few flights in or out of Houston are quicker to cancel them on bad-weather days, she says, but cancelling Houston flights causes a ripple effect all over for ExpressJet.

As for the joys of sitting on a tarmac for hours, she says the company "overcaters" flights on bad-weather days so there's more food and water available for passengers.

-- Richard Connelly

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