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Last Updated On: 2/15/2013

If you read the U.S. Department of Transportation's new consumer report, you'd be thrilled that America's airlines are doing a remarkable job at keeping flyers happy.

So any grouchy faces you see at the airports are not the fault of the airlines.

Improvements Galore

On most key metrics like mishandled baggage, long tarmac delays, on-time arrivals and flight cancellations, the airlines claim to be to be doing a fine job.

The Air Travel Consumer Report says that reporting airlines posted a rate of 3.09 instances of mishandled baggage per 1,000 passengers, an improvement on 2011’s rate of 3.35.

The mishandled baggage figures for 2012 are the lowest rate in 25 years (airlines started reporting mishandled baggage in September 1987).

The 15 largest U.S. airlines also posted an 81.85% on-time arrival rate during 2012, the third highest annual performance in 18 years. The on-time arrival rate was highest in 2002 ( 82.14%), followed by 81.96 in 2003.

The 1.29% flight cancellation rate for 2012 was the second lowest rate in the last 18 years, beaten only by the 1.24% mark set in 2002.

Tarmac Delays

What about those hated tarmac delays?

Oh goodie, they are down too.

In 2012, there were 42 tarmac delays longer than three hours on U.S. domestic flights, down from 50 delays in 2011, which was the first full year the rule limiting tarmac delays was in effect.

The Department of Transportation's rule setting a three-hour limit for aircraft carrying passengers on domestic flights to sit on the tarmac took effect in April 2010.

Keep in mind that between May 2009 and April 2010, the airlines reported 693 tarmac delays of more than three hours.

U.S. and foreign airlines operating international flights at U.S. airports have been subject to a four-hour tarmac delay limit.

Only on bumping (ticket-holding travelers involuntary denied boarding), did the airlines falter in 2012.

The 15 U.S. carriers who report on-time performance and mishandled baggage data posted a bumping rate of 0.99 per 10,000 passengers in 2012, up from 0.77 in 2011.

The Christmas quarter was the worst with airlines reporting a bumping rate of 1.00 per 10,000 passengers, up from the 0.65 rate for the fourth quarter of 2011.

Welcome as these improvements are, wouldn't it be swell if the U.S. Department of Transportation stepped in and stopped airlines from nickling and diming passengers every step of the trip including reining in those pesky charges for check in baggage, early boarding and seat selection.