The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today released its December 2017 Air Travel Consumer Report on air carrier data compiled for the month of October 2017. In October, the reporting carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 84.8 percent, slightly down from the 85.5 percent on-time rate in October 2016, but up from the 83.6 percent mark in September 2017.
In October, the reporting carriers canceled 0.7 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, an improvement over both the 1.0 percent cancellation rate posted in October 2016 and the 3.3 percent rate in September 2017. Hurricanes Irma in Florida and Maria in Puerto Rico resulted in an unusually high number of cancellations in September 2017.
In October, airlines reported no tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to eight such tarmac delays reported in September 2017. In October, airlines also reported two tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, compared to one such tarmac delay reported in September 2017. All reported extended tarmac delays are investigated by the Department.
The consumer report also includes data on chronically delayed flights and the causes of flight delays filed with the Department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) by the reporting carriers. In addition, the consumer report contains a record of aviation service complaints filed with DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division by consumers regarding a range of issues including flight problems, baggage, reservation and ticketing, refunds, customer service, disability access, and discrimination. The report also includes statistics on mishandled baggage reports filed by consumers with the reporting carriers, data on oversales, and information about the total number of animals that died, were injured, or were lost during air transport in October 2017, as filed by the air carriers with the Aviation Consumer Protection Division.
Chronically Delayed Flights
At the end of October, there was one regularly scheduled flight that was chronically delayed – more than 30 minutes late more than 50 percent of the time – for five consecutive months. There were no additional regularly scheduled flights that were chronically delayed for three or four consecutive months. There were an additional nine regularly scheduled flights that were chronically delayed for two consecutive months. A list of flights that were chronically delayed for one or more months is available from BTS.
Causes of Flight Delays
In October 2017, the carriers filing on-time performance data reported that 15.24 percent of their flights were delayed – 4.73 percent of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 4.23 percent in September; 5.15 percent by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 4.40 percent in September; 4.23 percent by factors within the airline’s control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 3.88 percent in September; 0.24 percent by extreme weather, compared to 0.32 percent in September; and 0.04 percent for security reasons, compared to 0.02 percent in September. In addition, 0.69 percent of flights were canceled and 0.16 percent were diverted.
Weather is a factor in both the extreme-weather category and the aviation-system category. This includes delays due to the re-routing of flights by DOT’s Federal Aviation Administration in consultation with the carriers involved. Weather is also a factor in delays attributed to late-arriving aircraft, although airlines do not report specific causes in that category.
BTS uses the data collected from airlines to determine the percentage of late flights delayed by weather, which includes those reported in the categories of extreme weather, late-arriving aircraft, and National Aviation System delays. In October, 27.42 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, up from 23.65 percent in October 2016 and down from 29.82 percent in September 2017.
Detailed information on flight delays and their causes is available from BTS.
The U.S. carriers reporting mishandled baggage data posted a mishandled baggage rate of 2.04 reports per 1,000 passengers in October, an improvement over October 2016’s rate of 2.06, but up from September 2017’s rate of 1.99, the lowest monthly rate since DOT started collecting mishandled baggage report data in September 1987.
Oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly. For the third quarter of 2017, the 12 U.S. carriers who report involuntary denied boarding, or bumping, data posted a bumping rate of 0.15 per 10,000 passengers, the lowest quarterly rate based on historical data dating back to 1995 and down from both the rate of 0.69 for the third quarter of 2016 and the previous lowest quarterly rate of 0.44 posted in the second quarter of 2017. For the first nine months of this year, the carriers posted a bumping rate of 0.39 per 10,000 passengers, the lowest January through September rate based on historical data dating back to 1995 and down from the rate of 0.65 posted during the first nine months of 2016. The previous lowest rate for the January through September period was 0.64 in 2002. Third quarter and nine month bumping numbers were previously released in the November Air Travel Consumer Report, which includes denied boarding numbers by airline.
Incidents Involving Animals
In October, carriers reported five incidents involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, up from the four reports filed in October 2016, but down from the six reports filed in September 2017. October’s incidents involved the deaths of four animals and injury to one other animal.
Complaints About Airline Service
In October, DOT received 1,188 complaints about airline service from consumers, down 6.5 percent from the total of 1,270 filed in October 2016 and down 24.6 percent from the 1,576 received in September 2017.
Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers
The report also contains a tabulation of complaints filed with DOT in October against airlines regarding the treatment of passengers with disabilities. The Department received a total of 66 disability-related complaints in October, down from the 80 complaints received in October 2016, but up from the 63 received in September 2017. All complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of disability are investigated.
Complaints About Discrimination
In October 2017, the Aviation Consumer Protection Division received eight complaints alleging discrimination – six complaints regarding race, one complaint regarding national origin, and one complaint regarding sex. This is equal to the total of eight recorded in October 2016 and up from the six recorded in September 2017. All complaints alleging discrimination are investigated to determine if there has been a violation(s) of the passenger’s civil rights.
Consumers may file air travel consumer or civil rights complaints on the web at http://airconsumer.dot.gov/escomplaint/ConsumerForm.cfm or by voice mail at (202) 366-2220 or by TTY at (202) 366-0511. They may also mail a complaint to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division, U.S. Department of Transportation, C-75, W96-432, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20590.
Consumers who want on-time performance data for specific flights should call their airline’s reservation number or their travel agent. This information is available on the computerized reservation systems used by these agents. The information is also available on the appropriate carrier’s website.
AIR TRAVEL CONSUMER REPORT
KEY OCTOBER 2017 ON-TIME PERFORMANCE AND FLIGHT CANCELLATION STATISTICS
Based on Data Filed with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics by the 12 Reporting Carriers and Tarmac Data Filed by All Carriers
84.8 percent on-time arrivals
Highest On-Time Arrival Rates
- Hawaiian Airlines – 89.5 percent
- Delta Air Lines – 89.4 percent
- Spirit Airlines – 87.1 percent
Lowest On-Time Arrival Rates
- Virgin America – 73.3 percent
- JetBlue Airways – 79.6 percent
- ExpressJet Airlines – 80.6 percent
Domestic Flights with Longest Tarmac Delays Exceeding Three Hours
* There were no domestic flights in October with tarmac delays exceeding three hours.
International Flights with Longest Tarmac Delays Exceeding Four Hours
- Japan Airlines flight 61 from Los Angeles International to Tokyo Narita, 10/28/17 – delayed 297 minutes on the tarmac at Los Angeles International
- Air Canada flight 794 from Los Angeles International to Toronto, Canada, 10/28/17 – delayed 296 minutes on the tarmac at Los Angeles International
Highest Rates of Canceled Flights
- JetBlue Airways – 2.1 percent
- Virgin America – 1.6 percent
- SkyWest Airlines – 1.5 percent
Lowest Rates of Canceled Flights
- Delta Air Lines – 0.0 percent*
- United Airlines – 0.3 percent
- Hawaiian Airlines – 0.4 percent
* Delta Air Lines canceled 10 flights in October.
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