Flight Delays, Mishandled Bags, Air Service Complaints Down in April

Flight delays, reports of mishandled baggage, and complaints about airline service and the treatment of passengers with disabilities decreased in April, according to the monthly Air Travel Consumer Report issued today by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

According to information filed with the department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the 10 carriers reporting on-time performance posted an 82.6 percent on-time arrival record in April, better than both March’s 78.6 percent and April 2001’s 79.3 percent.  Continental Airlines had the best on-time arrival rate in April at 87.9 percent, followed by Southwest Airlines in second place at 85.0 and America West Airlines third at 84.9.  Delta Air Lines had the lowest percentage of on-time flights, ranked tenth at 79.1, with American Eagle Airlines ranked ninth at 79.4 and Northwest Airlines eighth at 80.6. 

The report contains a list of regularly scheduled flights that were late at least 80 percent of the time. In April, there were only two flights on this list:  Northwest flight 1784 from Detroit to Philadelphia, late 80.95 percent of the time; and Delta flight 1251 from New York JFK to Salt Lake City, late 80 percent of the time.

The report contains a note reminding consumers that flight delays can be caused by a variety of factors.  The data on which this report is based do not identify the causes, only the occurrence, of flight delays.

        These official on-time data are distinct from the data compiled by DOT’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which records delays while aircraft are under control of the air traffic control system (i.e., from actual gate pushback time to actual gate arrival time).  FAA data cover some of the delays caused by weather and volume, for example, but do not cover delays at the gate such as those caused by aircraft mechanical problems, crew unavailability or many weather conditions affecting flights before they depart.  The FAA data are useful for managing the air traffic control system but are not designed to measure airline passenger delays.


The consumer report also includes BTS data on the number of domestic flights canceled by the reporting carriers.  In April, the carriers canceled 1.0 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, fewer than both March’s 1.3 percent and April 2001’s 2.2 percent.  American Eagle had the highest rate of canceled flights in April at 3.2 percent, followed by Alaska Airlines at 2.0 and Northwest at 1.1.  Continental had the lowest percentage of cancellations at 0.2 percent, followed by United Airlines at 0.5 and Delta at 0.6. 

        The 10 largest U.S. carriers posted a mishandled baggage rate of 3.69 reports per 1,000 passengers in April, better than both March’s rate of 4.52 and April 2001’s mark of 4.41 for the same 10 carriers.

The department received 926 complaints about airline service in April, 9.2 percent fewer than the 1,020 complaints filed in March and 44.4 percent fewer than the 1,666 complaints received in April 2001. 

        The report also contains a tabulation of complaints filed with DOT in April against specific airlines regarding the treatment of passengers with disabilities.  The department received a total of 37 disability-related complaints in April, a decrease of 32.7 percent from the 55 complaints filed in March and 22.9 percent below April 2001’s total of 48. 

Passengers filed 18 complaints in April alleging discrimination by airlines due to factors other than disability, such as race, religion, national origin or sex.  This represents a 48.6 percent decrease from the 35 discrimination complaints filed in March, but an 80 percent increase over the 10 complaints filed in April 2001.

Consumers may file their complaints in writing with the Aviation Consumer Protection Division, U.S. Department of Transportation, C-75, 400 7th St., S.W., Room 4107, Washington, D.C. 20590, by e-mail at [email protected], by voice mail at (202) 366-2220 or by TTY at (202) 366-0511.

        The department reminded consumers who want on-time performance data for specific flights to call their airline ticket offices or their travel agents.  This information is available on the computerized reservation systems used by these agents.  Detailed flight delay information is also available on the BTS site on the World Wide Web at http://www.bts.gov.

The Air Travel Consumer Report can be found on DOT’s World Wide Web site at http://www.dot.gov/airconsumer.  It is available in “pdf” and Microsoft Word format.