The Department of Transportation (DOT) keeps track of the airline industry. Every month it releases a report the Air Travel Consumer Report about airline service. The statistics report covers subjects including on-time performance to oversales (denied boarding and bumping), mishandled baggage reports to airline complaints filed with DOT, and tarmac delay statistics to flight cancellations.
Here is the DOT Air Travel Consumer Report for April 2018 that provides a statistical state of flying.
DOT Air Travel Consumer Report: February 2018 Numbers
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today released its April 2018 DOT Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) on air carrier data compiled for the month of February 2018. The full consumer report and other aviation consumer matters of interest to the public can be found at http://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer.
In February 2018, the reporting carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 79.3 percent, down from both the 82.6 percent on-time rate in February 2017 and the 79.6 percent mark in January 2018.
Highest On-Time Arrival Rates
- Delta Air Lines – 87.9 percent
- Alaska Airlines – 85.3 percent
- United Airlines – 84.7 percent
Lowest On-Time Arrival Rates
- Envoy Air – 70.6 percent
- PSA Airlines – 72.1 percent
- Frontier Airlines – 73.8 percent
In February 2018, the reporting carriers canceled 1.7 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, slightly up from the 1.5 percent cancellation rate posted in February 2017, but an improvement over the 3.0 percent rate in January 2018.
Highest Rates of Canceled Flights
- Envoy Air – 6.1 percent
- Mesa Airlines – 3.0 percent
- SkyWest Airlines – 2.8 percent
Lowest Rates of Canceled Flights
- Delta Air Lines – 0.1 percent
- Hawaiian Airlines – 0.3 percent
- United Airlines – 0.4 percent
In February 2018, airlines reported 27 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to 12 such tarmac delays reported in January 2018. In February 2018, airlines also reported four tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, compared to 32 such tarmac delays reported in January 2018. Extended tarmac delays are investigated by the Department.
Domestic Flights with Longest Tarmac Delays Exceeding Three Hours
- Republic Airline flight 3491 from Newark, N.J. to Kansas City, Mo., 2/17/18 – delayed 250 minutes on the tarmac in Newark
- United Airlines flight 1611 from Newark, N.J. to Phoenix, 2/17/18 – delayed 249 minutes on the tarmac in Newark
- Endeavor Air flight 3370 from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Kansas City, Mo., 2/20/18 – delayed 242 minutes on the tarmac in Kansas City
International Flights with Longest Tarmac Delays Exceeding Four Hours
- United Airlines flight 81 from Newark, N.J. to Manchester, United Kingdom, 2/17/18 – delayed 271 minutes on the tarmac in Newark
- United Airlines flight 41 from Rome, Italy to Newark, N.J., 2/11/18 – delayed 251 minutes on the tarmac in Philadelphia after being diverted
- United Airlines flight 14 from Newark, N.J. to London Heathrow, 2/17/18 – delayed 247 minutes on the tarmac in Newark
Detailed information on airline on-time performance, cancellations, and tarmac delays is available from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
In February 2018, the carriers posted a mishandled baggage rate of 2.72 reports per 1,000 passengers, an increase over February 2017’s rate of 2.16, but an improvement over January 2018’s rate of 3.50.
Editor’s note: This is a flawed statistic that is part of the DOT Air Travel Consumer Report. It reports on the number of mishandled baggage based on the number of passengers flown. If the number of passengers flying check fewer bags, the statistics appear to be an improvement for the airlines. In other words, if the airlines were to charge even more for checked baggage fees and fewer passengers checked their bags, the resulting statistics would be indicated by DOT as an “improvement in baggage handling.” In fact, the DOT Air Travel Consumer Report encourages worse handling of baggage and fewer checked bags.
Bumping/oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly. Fourth quarter 2017 bumping/oversales data were released in the February 2018 Air Travel Consumer Report. First quarter 2018 bumping/oversales data will be available in the May 2018 Air Travel Consumer Report.
Incidents Involving Animals
In February 2018, U.S. airlines reported one incident involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, down from the two reports filed in February 2017, but up from the zero reports filed in January 2018. February’s incident involved the death of one animal.
Complaints About Airline Service
In February 2018, DOT received 1,046 complaints about airline service from consumers, up 10.5 percent from the total of 947 filed in February 2017, but down 27.9 percent from the 1,451 received in January 2018.
Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers
In February 2018, the Department received a total of 53 disability-related complaints, down from both the 55 complaints received in February 2017 and the 66 complaints received in January 2018. All complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of disability are investigated.
Complaints About Discrimination
In February 2018, the Department received four complaints alleging discrimination – one complaint regarding ancestry/ethnicity, one complaint regarding national origin, one complaint regarding religion, and one complaint regarding sex. This is equal to the total of four recorded in February 2017 and down from the seven recorded in January 2018. 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.
Charlie Leocha is the President of Travelers United. He has been working in Washington, DC, for the past 11 years with Congress, the Department of Transportation and industry stakeholders on travel issues. He was the first consumer representative to the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protections appointed by the Secretary of Transportation from 2012 through 2018.