Good news for air travelers! The nation’s largest airlines reported their lowest rate of mishandled baggage for a year during 2012, and set high marks for on-time performance, the fewest long tarmac delays, and a low rate of canceled flights, according to the Air Travel Consumer Report from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).
DOT says carriers posted a rate of 3.09 reports of mishandled baggage per 1,000 passengers, an improvement on 2011’s rate of 3.35 and their lowest rate of mishandled baggage for a year since this data was first reported in September 1987.
The 15 largest U.S. airlines also posted an 81.85 percent on-time arrival rate during 2012, the third highest annual performance in the 18 years the DOT has collected comparable data. The high was 82.14 percent in 2002, followed by 81.96 in 2003. The 1.29 percent cancellation rate for the year also was the second lowest rate for the past 18 years, with the lowest being the 1.24 percent mark set in 2002.
In addition, there were 42 tarmac delays longer than three hours on U.S. domestic flights in 2012, down from 50 delays in 2011, which was the first full year the rule limiting tarmac delays was in effect. This follows the DOT's rule, which took effect in April 2010, setting a three-hour limit for aircraft carrying passengers on domestic flights to sit on the tarmac. Exceptions to the time limits are allowed only for safety, security or air traffic control-related reasons.
Between May 2009 and April 2010, the final 12 months before the rule took effect, the carriers reported 693 tarmac delays of more than three hours. Since August 2011, U.S. and foreign airlines operating international flights at U.S. airports have been subject to a four-hour tarmac delay limit.
“This remarkable decrease in flight delays, tarmac incidents, cancellations and mishandled bags is a tribute both to the hard work of the airlines and the Department of Transportation’s oversight of the aviation industry,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We will continue to work with the carriers to make air travel more convenient and hassle-free for consumers.”
Complaints about airline service increased. In December, the DOT received 901 complaints about airline service from consumers, up 26.7 percent from the 711 complaints received in December 2011, and down 8.7 percent from the total of 987 filed in November 2012.
For all of last year, the Department received 15,335 complaints, 32.8 percent higher than the 11,546 complaints received in 2011.