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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Of the 33 largest airports nationwide, Salt Lake City International has the best record for on-time arrivals.
Data released by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation statistics shows the airport's ranking i improved from third-best during the first three quarters of 2004 to first over the same time period in 2005.
Since 1998, the only year the airport had a better performance was in 2003, when nearly 90 percent of flights were on-time.
The airport ranked second for on-time departures this year, behind first-place Houston by just .06 percent.
Overall, about 84 percent of all flights into Salt Lake City were on time between January and September. About 85 percent also took on schedule, according to the bureau's report. Flights that leave or arrive within 15 minutes of their scheduled time are considered on-time.
Weather is the single biggest factor in on-time performance, bureau spokesman Bill Mosley said.
In Salt Lake City's case, the good marks are a combination of pleasant weather and exceptional airport operations, airport spokesman Barbara Gann said.
"We have a strong partnership with the airlines and work very closely with them to streamline the airport operations, and the stats bear that out," she said.
Federal Aviation Administration officials have been pushing to redesign the airspace around Salt Lake's airport for several years because it is growing more crowded. Without a redesign, the increasing amount of airline traffic could begin to effect flight timeliness, but the proposal has been balked at by politicians and the city's Department of Airports.
Keith Christensen, who sits on both the Airport board and the Utah Air Travel Commission, says the smooth operations help the city's economy.
"The city understands that (the airport) is one of the crown jewels of this region," he said. "Without it, the business community and the recreation community would not be as vibrant as they both are. Business people want to know that their people can be efficient in traveling."
Airport managers have taken steps to ensure timely flights by doing runway repairs in the middle of the night instead of during peak travel times, Christensen said.
Christensen said the city airport also has an exceptionally seasoned staff of FAA air traffic controllers, who also contribute to the facility on-time record.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)