The airline industry is heavily regulated, which makes sense if you think about that whole interstate commerce thing. For Pete's sake (pardon the swear), the Commerce Clause is seemingly older than dirt.
Some may be opposed to what they consider too much government intervention, but here's a great thing to come of it: the Air Travel Consumer Report, brought to you by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The data in the report can help you determine which airlines are late most often and why. Slate.com, for example, brings an analysis of why Southwest is late so often, then proposes a solution. So next time you're booking a flight, look to the DOT for info on consumer complaints (p. 46), on-time arrival and departure percentages by airport (p. 27), and mishandled baggage (pp. 40-42).