WASHINGTON - Nearly a third of domestic flights did not arrive on time in February, continuing a period of historically poor performance for an industry plagued with safety concerns and pinched by rising fuel costs.

More than 31 percent of domestic commercial flights arrived late, were canceled or were diverted in February, according to Department of Transportation data released Thursday.

Although the results are better than February last year, that's not saying much. That month was the sixth-worst on record, with 33 percent of flights arriving late. And this February's results were worse than January's, when almost 28 percent of flights arrived late, were canceled or were diverted.

One reason: Airlines are replacing big planes with smaller ones to fly with fewer empty seats. But that crowds the skies and gates, analysts say.

And the weather hasn't helped. In February, nearly 47 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, up from more than 38 percent in the year-ago period.

American Eagle Airlines, which operates regional flights for American Airlines, had the worst February, with more than 39 percent of its flights delayed by at least 15 minutes. JetBlue's evening flight from Newark, N.J., to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was the worst individual performer, arriving an average of 69 minutes late every time it took off.