The nation’s largest airlines had a rate of on-time flights this past April that was higher than both the same month last year and the mark posted in March 2009, according to the Air Travel Consumer Report released by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). According to information filed with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), a part of DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), the 19 carriers reporting on-time performance recorded an overall on-time arrival rate of 79.1 percent in April, better than both the 77.7 percent on-time rate of April 2008 and March 2009’s 78.4 percent.
The monthly report also includes data on lengthy tarmac delays, flight cancellations and the causes of flight delays by the reporting carriers, as well as reports of mishandled baggage filed with the carriers, and consumer service, disability and discrimination complaints received by DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division. This report also includes reports of incidents involving pets traveling by air, as required to be filed by U.S. carriers.
The consumer report includes BTS data on the number of domestic flights canceled by the reporting carriers. In April, the carriers canceled 1.5 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, a lower rate than both the 1.7 percent cancellation rate of April 2008 and the 2.1 percent rate posted in March 2009.
In April, the carriers filing on-time performance data reported that .0152 percent of their scheduled flights had tarmac delays of three hours or more, down from .0158 percent in March. There were five flights with tarmac delays of four hours or more in April.
Causes of flight delays
In April, the carriers filing on-time performance data reported that 7.40 percent of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 7.29 percent in March; 6.19 percent by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 6.49 percent in March; 4.78 percent by factors within the airline’s control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 4.84 percent in March; 0.69 percent by extreme weather, compared to 0.62 percent in March; and 0.03 percent for security reasons, compared to 0.04 percent in March. 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.
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 April, 44.38 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, up 17.13 percent from April 2008, when 37.89 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, and down 2.42 percent from March when 45.48 percent of late flights were delayed by weather.
The U.S. carriers reporting flight delays and mishandled baggage data posted a mishandled baggage rate of 3.79 reports per 1,000 passengers in April, an improvement over both April 2008’s rate of 4.99 and March 2009’s 4.12 rate.
Incidents involving pets
In April, carriers reported no incidents involving the loss, death or injury of pets while traveling by air, down from three incidents in April 2008 and two in March 2009.
Complaints about airline service
In April, the Department received 781 complaints about airline service from consumers, down 29.8 percent from the 1,112 complaints filed in April 2008 but 10.8 percent more than the total of 705 complaints received in March 2009.
Complaints about treatment of disabled passengers
The report also contains a tabulation of complaints filed with DOT in April against airlines regarding the treatment of passengers with disabilities. The Department received a total of 46 disability-related complaints in April, up from both the total of 35 complaints received in April 2008 and the 37 complaints received in March 2009.
Complaints about discrimination
In April, the Department received 14 complaints alleging discrimination by airlines due to factors other than disability – such as race, religion, national origin or sex – up from both the total of eight discrimination complaints filed in April 2008 and the total of six received in March 2009.