Travel: Airlines suffering more flight delays

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Airlines have threatened to take the Civil Aviation Authority, the industry regulator, to court over the publication of punctuality statistics, officials said yesterday.

"We have to check all the details extremely carefully," Stan Abrahams, chief statistician at the CAA, said. "Some carriers have told us they will seek legal redress if we publish. Which is why when we do, the figures are right."

Fewer than half (49 per cent) of holiday flights in and out of the UK's 10 major airports were on time in the April to June 1997 period, the CAA revealed - a worse performance than the 52 per cent on-time figure for April to June 1996. And with the number of flights constantly increasing, the situation is unlikely to improve. "Delays will increase, and with charters, once a flight gets delayed, it's very difficult for that plane to get back on time again," said Mr Abrahams. Scheduled service flights were also suffering. Nearly 75 per cent were on time during this period compared with 80 per cent on time in the three months from April 1996. At Gatwick, the UK's busiest holiday airport, only 42 per cent of total charter flights and only 40 per cent of European charters were on time.