US airline performance slips

7th Aug 2007

The U.S.’ largest airlines recorded a lower rate of on-time flights and a higher rate of mishandled baggage and canceled flights this past June than during either this past May or the previous June, according to the Air Travel Consumer Report released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The report also shows that consumer complaints against air carriers rose in June compared to the same previous months.

According to information filed with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), a part of DOTs Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), the 20 carriers reporting on-time performance recorded an overall on-time arrival rate of 68.1 percent in June, down from both June 2006s 72.8 percent and May 2007s 77.9 percent. The data also show that these carriers canceled 2.7 percent of their domestic scheduled flights in June, up from both June 2006s cancellation rate of 1.7 percent and May 2007s 1.1 percent.

The 20 reporting carriers also posted a mishandled baggage rate of 7.92 reports per 1,000 passengers in June, higher than both June 2006s 6.30 rate and May 2007s 5.93 mark.

In addition, the Department received 1,094 complaints from consumers in June about airline service, up 43.4 percent from the 763 complaints received in June 2006 and 17.8 percent more than the total of 929 filed in May 2007.

The monthly report also includes data on causes of flight delays, airline bumping, and consumer disability and discrimination complaints received by DOTs Aviation Consumer Protection Division. This report also includes reports required to be filed by U.S. carriers of incidents involving pets traveling by air.


Causes of Flight Delays

The carriers filing on-time performance data reported that 9.13 percent of their June flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 7.49 percent in May 2007; 10.04 percent by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 6.71 percent in May; 8.13 percent by factors within the airlines control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 5.76 percent in May; 1.42 percent by extreme weather, compared to 0.76 in May; and 0.09 percent for security reasons, compared to 0.06 percent in May. 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 DOTs 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.

Data collected by BTS also shows the percentage of late flights delayed by weather, including those reported in either the category of extreme weather or included in National Aviation System delays. In June, 44.97 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, up 6.92 percent from June 2006, when 42.06 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, and up 14.78 percent from May when 39.18 percent of late flights were delayed by weather.

Detailed information on flight delays and their causes is available on the BTS site on the World Wide Web at . For example, that site shows that airlines reported 462 flights with taxi-out times of more than three hours in June. More details by carrier and by airport are available on the BTS website at /.

January-June Mishandled Baggage

During the first six months of this year, the U.S. carriers reporting flight delay and mishandled baggage data posted a mishandled baggage rate of 7.34 reports per 1,000 passengers, up from the 5.86 mishandled baggage rate recorded during January-June 2006.


The report also includes airline reports of involuntary denied boarding, or bumping, for the second quarter and first six months of this year. Of the 20 U.S. carriers who report on-time performance and mishandled baggage data, 18 are also required to report their bumping records to DOT. These 18 carriers posted a bumping rate of 1.22 per 10,000 passengers for the second quarter, up from the 1.12 rate for the second quarter of 2006 but down from the 1.45 bumping rate for the first quarter of this year. For the first six months of this year, the carriers posted a bumping rate of 1.33 per 10,000 passengers, up from the 1.21 rate recorded in January-June 2006.

Incidents Involving Pets

In June, carriers reported four incidents involving pets while traveling by air, down from five incidents in May. The June incidents involved three deaths and one injury.

January-June Complaints About Airline Service

During the first six months of this year, the Department received 6,151 complaints from consumers about airline service, up 47.2 percent from the 4,178 complaints recorded during January-June 2006.

Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers

The report also contains a tabulation of complaints filed with DOT in June and the first six months of this year against specific airlines regarding the treatment of passengers with disabilities. The Department received a total of 45 disability-related complaints in June, 6.3 percent fewer than the 48 complaints received in June 2006 but up 32.4 percent from the total of 34 filed in May 2007. For the first six months of this year the department received 205 disability-related complaints, down 8.5 percent from the 224 filed during January-June 2006.

Complaints About Discrimination

In June, the Department received six complaints alleging discrimination by airlines due to factors other than disability such as race, religion, national origin or sex down from the total of 16 complaints filed in June 2006 but up from the four complaints received in May 2007. For the first six months of this year, the Department received 47 discrimination complaints, down 24.2 percent from the 62 complaints filed during January-June 2006.


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