U.S. Airline Bumping Continues to Decline and Mishandled Baggage Rate Lowest in Decades
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) yesterday released its November 2017 Air Travel Consumer Report on air carrier data compiled for the month of September 2017, third quarter of 2017, and first nine months of 2017. 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.
DOT has launched its redesigned airline consumer website to make it easy for travelers to understand their rights. The full consumer report and other aviation consumer matters of interest to the public can be found at http://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer.
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.
Oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly. See the November Air Travel Consumer Report for denied boarding numbers by airline.
The U.S. carriers reporting mishandled baggage data posted a mishandled baggage rate of 1.99 reports per 1,000 passengers in September, an improvement over both September 2016’s rate of 2.23 and August 2017’s rate of 2.45 and the lowest monthly rate since DOT started collecting mishandled baggage report data in September 1987. The previous low was 2.02 in November 2016. For the first nine months of this year, the carriers posted a mishandled baggage rate of 2.50 reports per 1,000 passengers, an improvement over the 2.75 rate recorded during the first nine months of 2016.
The consumer report also includes data on on-time performance, cancellations, tarmac delays, 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 information about the total number of animals that died, were injured, or were lost during air transport in September 2017, as filed by the air carriers with the Aviation Consumer Protection Division.
In September, the reporting carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 83.6 percent, down from the 85.5 percent on-time rate in September 2016, but up from the 77.1 percent mark in August 2017.
The reporting carriers canceled 3.3 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, up from both the 0.3 percent cancellation rate posted in September 2016 and the 2.2 percent rate in August 2017. Hurricanes Irma in Florida and Maria in Puerto Rico resulted in an unusually high number of cancellations in September 2017.
In September, airlines reported eight tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to nine such tarmac delays reported in August 2017. In September, airlines also reported one tarmac delay of more than four hours on international flights, compared to two such tarmac delays reported in August 2017. All reported extended tarmac delays are investigated by the Department.
Chronically Delayed Flights
At the end of September, 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 an additional six regularly scheduled flights that were chronically delayed for four consecutive months, an additional three regularly scheduled flights that were chronically delayed for three consecutive months, and an additional three 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 September 2017, the carriers filing on-time performance data reported that 16.36 percent of their flights were delayed – 4.23 percent of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 6.25 percent in August; 4.40 percent by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 8.07 percent in August; 3.88 percent by factors within the airline’s control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 5.54 percent in August; 0.32 percent by extreme weather, compared to 0.61 percent in August; and 0.02 percent for security reasons, compared to 0.04 percent in August. In addition, 3.34 percent of flights were canceled and 0.17 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 September, 29.82 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, up from 29.25 percent in September 2016 and down from 36.08 percent in August 2017.
Detailed information on flight delays and their causes is available from BTS.
Incidents Involving Animals
In September, carriers reported six incidents involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, up from both the five reports filed in September 2016 and the four reports filed in August 2017. September’s incidents involved the deaths of two animals and injuries to four other animals.
Complaints About Airline Service
In September, DOT received 1,576 complaints about airline service from consumers, up 21.0 percent from the total of 1,302 filed in September 2016 and down 17.4 percent from the 1,907 received in August 2017. For the first nine months of this year, the Department received 14,419 consumer complaints, up 3.8 percent from the total of 13,893 filed during the first nine months of 2016.
Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers
The report also contains a tabulation of complaints filed with DOT in September against airlines regarding the treatment of passengers with disabilities. The Department received a total of 63 disability-related complaints in September, up from the 61 complaints received in September 2016, but down from the 98 received in August 2017. For the first nine months of this year, the Department received 664 disability-related complaints, up 1.5 percent from the total of 654 filed during the first nine months of 2016. All complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of disability are investigated.
Complaints About Discrimination
In September 2017, the Aviation Consumer Protection Division received six complaints alleging discrimination – three complaints regarding race and three complaints regarding national origin. This is equal to the total of six recorded in September 2016 and down from the 11 recorded in August 2017. From January to September 2017, the Division received 68 complaints from consumers alleging discrimination by airlines – 45 complaints regarding race, three complaints regarding ancestry/ethnicity, nine complaints regarding national origin, two complaints regarding color, two complaints regarding religion, five complaints regarding sex, and two complaints categorized as “other.” This is equal to the 68 complaints alleging discrimination received during the first nine months of 2016. 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 SEPTEMBER 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
83.6 percent on-time arrivals
Highest On-Time Arrival Rates
- Hawaiian Airlines – 94.0 percent
- Delta Air Lines – 88.7 percent
- Alaska Airlines – 86.4 percent
Lowest On-Time Arrival Rates
- JetBlue Airways – 70.1 percent
- Spirit Airlines – 75.1 percent
- Virgin America – 77.4 percent
Domestic Flights with Longest Tarmac Delays Exceeding Three Hours
- Allegiant Air flight 1651 from Knoxville, Tenn. to Punta Gorda, Fla., 9/1/17 – delayed 217 minutes on the tarmac in Punta Gorda
- American Airlines flight 433 from Charlotte to Phoenix, 9/24/17 – delayed 201 minutes on the tarmac in Tucson, Ariz. after being diverted
- American Airlines flight 2203 from Miami to Las Vegas, 9/7/17 – delayed 183 minutes on the tarmac in Miami
- Virgin America flight 1349 from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco, 9/7/17 – delayed 183 minutes on the tarmac in Fort Lauderdale
- United Airlines flight 481 from Los Angeles to San Francisco, 9/11/17 – delayed 183 minutes on the tarmac in San Jose, Calif. after being diverted
International Flights with Longest Tarmac Delays Exceeding Four Hours
- Volaris flight 881 from New York JFK to Mexico City, 9/13/17 – delayed 261 minutes on the tarmac at New York JFK
Highest Rates of Canceled Flights
- Spirit Airlines – 10.4 percent
- JetBlue Airways – 9.3 percent
- American Airlines – 4.6 percent
Lowest Rates of Canceled Flights
- Hawaiian Airlines – 0.4 percent
- SkyWest Airlines – 0.6 percent
- Alaska Airlines – 0.7 percent
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