Complaints Decrease, According to DOT Report

Flight delays, cancellations and reports of mishandled baggage for the nation’s largest airlines decreased in August, and passengers filed fewer complaints about airline service during the same month. 

These numbers are included in 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 largest U.S. carriers currently required to report on-time performance posted an 82.9 percent on-time arrival record in August, better than both July’s 79.8 percent and August 2001’s 76.2 percent.  US Airways had the best on-time arrival rate in August at 85.9 percent, followed by Delta Air Lines at 84.6 and American Airlines at 83.5.  Alaska Airlines had the lowest percentage of on-time flights in August at 76.0, with American Eagle Airlines ranked ninth at 79.7 and Southwest Airlines eighth at 81.5.   

The report contains a list of regularly scheduled flights that were late at least 80 percent of the time.  In August, the three flights most frequently late - all late 83.87 percent of the time - were Southwest flight 1428 from Cleveland to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Delta flight 1992 from Atlanta to New York’s JFK Airport, and Alaska flight 153 from Nome, AK, to Anchorage, AK.  One other flight made the list:  Southwest flight 970 from San Diego to Oakland, CA, late 80.77 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 delays caused by weather and aircraft 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 August, the carriers canceled 1.1 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, fewer than both July’s 1.3 percent and August 2001’s 2.4 percent.  American Eagle had the highest rate of canceled flights in August at 2.9 percent, followed by America West Airlines at 1.6 and Northwest Airlines at 1.5.  Continental Airlines had the lowest percentage of cancellations at 0.3 percent, followed by Delta at 0.6 and United Airlines at 0.8. 

In August, the 10 U.S. airlines required to file flight delay and mishandled baggage data posted a mishandled baggage rate of 3.72 reports per 1,000 passengers, better than both July’s rate of 3.99 and August 2001’s 4.45. 

The department received 735 complaints about airline service in August, a 28.9 percent decrease from the 1,034 complaints received in July and 60.8 percent fewer than the 1,876 complaints received in August 2001. 

The report also contains a tabulation of complaints filed with DOT in August against specific airlines regarding the treatment of passengers with disabilities.  The department received a total of 43 disability-related complaints in August, slightly fewer than the 45 filed in July and 47.6 percent fewer than August 2001’s total of 82. 

Consumers registered 13 complaints in August alleging discrimination by airlines due to factors other than disability - such as race, religion, national origin or sex - slightly fewer than both the 14 complaints filed in July and the 15 filed in August 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 

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