Short security lines and inexpensive parking distinguish the Portland International Jetport from many other U.S. airports, but the jetport has one of the worst on-time arrival rates in the country.
That’s one of the findings in a report released today by the Brookings Institution, which ranks Portland third-worst among the nation’s 100 biggest metropolitan areas for on-time arrival rates, and 12th-worst for on-time departures.
TOP FIVE FOR LATENESS
Five worst on-time arrival performances among the biggest 100 metro areas. Figures show percentage of on-time arrivals.
1. New York, New Jersey, Long Island 66.3
2. Palm Bay, Melbourne, Titusville, Fla. 69.2
3. Portland, South Portland, Biddeford 73.3
4. Philadelphia, Camden, N.J., Wilmington, Del. 73.4
5. Columbia, S.C.73.6
The study by the nonpartisan public policy research group found that 73.3 percent of flights arrive in Portland on time, compared with the national average of 78.9 percent.
The only areas with lower percentages than Portland’s are New York-New Jersey-Long Island at 66.3 percent on-time arrivals, and Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville in Florida at 69.2 percent.
The average delay in Portland is now 58.6 minutes, up 19 percent from 10 years ago. Departures from Portland are on time 81.3 percent of the time, compared with 83.1 percent nationally, the study says.
It isn’t air traffic in Portland that’s causing the late arrivals and departures, but congestion in New York and other cities that connect with Portland, the study concludes.
“This really means Portland is a slave to the operations going on elsewhere,” said Adie Tomer, a co-author of the report.
Many Portland flights link to cities with some of the worst travel delays, such as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta and San Francisco. Nearly 60 percent of the flights in and out of the jetport connect with New York, Chicago, Philadelphia or Atlanta.
Using Logan International Airport in Boston or Manchester Boston Regional Airport in New Hampshire won’t get you there any faster. The Boston metro area, which includes those two airports, ranks 11th-worst in the country for delays, with only 75 percent of the arrivals on time.
Arrivals in the Boston metro area are delayed an average of 61.3 minutes, even longer on average than Portland, the study shows.
Among the top-rated metro areas for on-time arrivals are Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Detroit and Washington, D.C.
Although delays make life less convenient for passengers, they also highlight the challenges that metropolitan areas face, said Tomer. The study — the first to analyze air travel among metro areas as opposed to individual airports — offers recommendations for reducing delays.
One recommendation is to allow congestion pricing, charging airlines higher landing fees during heavy travel times. Also proposed is privatizing government-owned airports and concentrating high-speed rail investment along the busiest air travel corridors.
Air transportation specialists said the report’s findings don’t surprise them.
The jetport’s director, Paul Bradbury, said demand is for flights to major cities in the Northeast, which tend to be congested. “We are going to the places where people want to go,” he said.
Bradbury said cold weather is another factor, because Portland has limited de-icing capabilities. “The busiest time is 5:45 a.m., and if there is freezing rain, it is hard to get to (all of the planes) instantly,” he said.
Jim Iacono, director of business development for Maine Aviation, said his company’s charter jets avoid the heavily congested airports around New York City, instead meeting their passengers in the small regional airports in Teterboro, N.J., and White Plains, N.Y.
Phil Dube, manager of Dube Cruise and Travel Center in Scarborough, said his clients like to use the Portland airport.
“That is why I pretty much recommend they have at least an hour connecting time in those cities,” he said.
But Godfrey Wood, chief executive officer of the Greater Portland Chamber, said Portland’s ranking surprised him. “I fly a lot through New York, and in the last two years any flight I have taken has arrived right on the money,” he said.
He said the delays apparently have not deterred users of the jetport, which has seen large increases in passengers.
The number of passengers flying into the airport rose 92 percent in the past decade, according to the Brookings report. That is the kind of growth that’s normally seen only in regions with exploding populations, Tomer said.
“They wouldn’t have that growth,” Wood said, “if people weren’t happy with the service.”