Travel Trends

2017 Airline Bumping Rate Lowest in Decades

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today released its February 2018 Air Travel Consumer Report on air carrier data compiled for the month of December 2017 and calendar year 2017.  In 2017, the carriers posted a bumping rate of 0.34 per 10,000 passengers, the lowest annual rate based on historical data dating back to 1995.  The previous low was 0.62 in 2016.  These carriers posted a bumping rate of 0.18 per 10,000 passengers for the fourth quarter of 2017, an improvement over the 0.55 rate for the fourth quarter of 2016.

Oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly.  See the February Air Travel Consumer Report for denied boarding numbers by airline.

In 2017, the U.S. carriers reporting mishandled baggage data posted a mishandled baggage rate of 2.46 per 1,000 passengers, an improvement over 2016’s rate of 2.70.  The carriers posted a mishandled baggage rate of 3.15 reports per 1,000 passengers in December, an improvement over December 2016’s rate of 3.58, but up from November 2017’s rate of 1.83. 

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 December 2017 and calendar year 2017, as filed by the air carriers with the Aviation Consumer Protection Division.

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.

On-Time Performance

In December, the reporting carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 80.3 percent, up from the 75.6 percent on-time rate in December 2016, but down from the 88.3 percent mark in November 2017.  For the full year 2017, the reporting carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 80.2 percent, down from 81.4 percent in 2016.

Cancellations

In December, the reporting carriers canceled 1.2 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, an improvement over the 1.6 percent cancellation rate posted in December 2016, but up from the 0.3 percent rate in November 2017.  For the full year 2017, the reporting carriers canceled 1.5 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, up from 1.2 percent in 2016.

Tarmac Delays

In December, airlines reported 96 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to no such tarmac delays reported in November 2017.  Of the 96 domestic flights with tarmac times of more than three hours, 77 were arriving flights waiting on the Atlanta tarmac during the December 17 power outage.  An additional 14 flights were delayed on the tarmac departing Atlanta during a December 8 snowstorm.  Four other flights were delayed on the Dallas-Fort Worth tarmac during a December 31 snow and ice storm. 

In December, airlines also reported 21 tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, compared to no such tarmac delays reported in November 2017.  All but two were related to the December 17 power outage at Atlanta.  Extended tarmac delays are investigated by the Department.

Chronically Delayed Flights

At the end of December, there were two regularly scheduled flights that were chronically delayed – more than 30 minutes late more than 50 percent of the time – for two consecutive months.  There were no chronically delayed flights for three consecutive months or more.  A list of flights that were chronically delayed for one or more months is available from BTS.

Causes of Flight Delays

In December 2017, the carriers filing on-time performance data reported that 19.73 percent of their flights were delayed – 5.58 percent of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 3.60 percent in November; 6.72 percent by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 3.89 percent in November; 5.46 percent by factors within the airline’s control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 3.61 percent in November; 0.56 percent by extreme weather, compared to 0.16 percent in November; and 0.05 percent for security reasons, compared to 0.04 percent in November.  In addition, 1.15 percent of flights were canceled and 0.21 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 December, 29.26 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, up from 28.36 percent in December 2016 and from 27.84 percent in November 2017.

Detailed information on flight delays and their causes is available from BTS.

Incidents Involving Animals

In 2017, carriers reported 24 animal deaths, injuries to 15 other animals, and one lost animal, for a total of 40 incidents, down from the 48 total incident reports filed for calendar year 2016.  In 2017, 506,994 animals were transported by airlines, for a rate of 0.79 incidents per 10,000 animals transported.  In 2016, 523,743 animals were transported, for a rate of 0.92  incidents per 10,000 animals transported.

In December, carriers reported three incidents involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, down from the five reports filed in December 2016, but up from the one report filed in November 2017.  December’s incidents involved the deaths of two animals and injury to one other animal. 

Complaints About Airline Service

In 2017, the Department received 18,148 complaints, up 1.3 percent from the total of 17,908 received in 2016.  In December, DOT received 1,242 complaints about airline service from consumers, down 27.9 percent from the total of 1,723 filed in December 2016 and down 4.4 percent from the 1,299 received in November 2017.

Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers

In 2017, the Department received 851 disability complaints, down 1.6 percent from the total of 865 received in 2016.  The Department received a total of 58 disability-related complaints in December, equal to the 58 complaints received in December 2016, but down from the 63 complaints received in November 2017.  All complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of disability are investigated.

Complaints About Discrimination

In 2017, the Department received 98 discrimination complaints – 63 complaints regarding race, five complaints regarding ancestry/ethnicity, 12 complaints regarding national origin, three complaints regarding color, three complaints regarding religion, 10 complaints regarding sex, and two complaints categorized as “other.”  This is an increase of 3.2 percent from the total of 95 filed in 2016. 

In December, the Department received nine complaints alleging discrimination – five complaints regarding race, two complaints regarding national origin, and two complaints regarding sex.  This is an increase from the total of five recorded in December 2016, but down from the 13 recorded in November 2017.  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.

Facts

AIR TRAVEL CONSUMER REPORT

February 2018

KEY DECEMBER 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

Overall

     80.3 percent on-time arrivals

Highest On-Time Arrival Rates

  1. United Airlines – 84.6 percent
  2. Delta Air Lines – 83.5 percent
  3. Alaska Airlines – 83.4 percent

Lowest On-Time Arrival Rates  

  1. JetBlue Airways – 74.1 percent
  2. Frontier Airlines – 75.8 percent
  3. ExpressJet Airlines – 76.4 percent

Domestic Flights with Longest Tarmac Delays Exceeding Three Hours

  1. Delta Air Lines flight 1675 from Las Vegas to Atlanta, 12/17/17 – delayed 414 minutes on the tarmac in Atlanta
  2. Delta Air Lines flight 2146 from Rochester, N.Y. to Atlanta, 12/17/17 – delayed 411 minutes on the tarmac in Atlanta
  3. Delta Air Lines flight 2048 from Baton Rouge, La. to Atlanta, 12/17/17 – delayed 408 minutes on the tarmac in Atlanta
  4. Delta Air Lines flight 820 from Washington Reagan to Atlanta, 12/17/17 – delayed 400 minutes on the tarmac in Atlanta
  5. Delta Air Lines flight 2222 from Los Angeles to Atlanta, 12/17/17 – delayed 399 minutes on the tarmac in Atlanta

5.   Delta Air Lines flight 2123 from San Jose, Calif. to Atlanta, 12/17/17 – delayed 399 minutes on the tarmac in Atlanta

International Flights with Longest Tarmac Delays Exceeding Four Hours

  1. Delta Air Lines flight 681 from Nassau, Bahamas to Atlanta, 12/17/17 – delayed 432 minutes on the tarmac in Atlanta
  2. Delta Air Lines flight 2526 from Toronto, Canada to Atlanta, 12/17/17 – delayed 423 minutes on the tarmac in Atlanta
  3. Delta Air Lines flight 392 from Panama City, Panama to Atlanta, 12/17/17 – delayed 416 minutes on the tarmac in Atlanta
  4. Delta Air Lines flight 532 from Cancún, Mexico to Atlanta, 12/17/17 – delayed 376 minutes on the tarmac in Atlanta
  5. Delta Air Lines flight 81 from Brussels, Belgium to Atlanta, 12/17/17 – delayed 375 minutes on the tarmac in Atlanta

Highest Rates of Canceled Flights   

  1. Delta Air Lines  – 2.9 percent
  2. ExpressJet Airlines – 1.7 percent
  3. SkyWest Airlines – 1.5 percent

Lowest Rates of Canceled Flights

  1. United Airlines – 0.2 percent
  2. JetBlue Airways – 0.2 percent
  3. Virgin America – 0.3 percent



Logos, product and company names mentioned are the property of their respective owners.