Airline On-Time Performance in May Improves

The nation’s largest airlines posted an on-time arrival mark in May that was an improvement from April’s showing but down from the performance recorded in May 2010, according to the Air Travel Consumer Report released by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

The 16 carriers reporting on-time performance recorded an overall on-time arrival rate of 77.1 percent in May, down from the 79.9 percent on-time rate of May 2010 but up from April 2011’s 75.5 percent rate.

The carriers filing on-time performance with the Department reported 16 total tarmac delays of more than three hours reported in May by the airlines that file on-time performance data with DOT, compared to one in May 2010 and four in April 2011.

Fourteen of the delays involved American Eagle Airlines flights arriving at Chicago’s O’Hare airport on May 29, a day in which the Chicago area experienced weather issues.  The other two long tarmac delays involved an American Eagle flight from New York JFK to Indianapolis on May 26, and a May 11 Southwest Airlines flight from Denver to Seattle.  All of the reported tarmac delays are under investigation by the Department.

During May, the carriers canceled 2.1 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, compared to 1.2 percent in May 2010 and 2.0 percent in April 2011.

At the end of May, there was only one flight that was chronically delayed – more than 30 minutes late more than 50 percent of the time – for three consecutive months.  There were an additional 46 flights that were chronically delayed for two consecutive months.  There were no chronically delayed flights for four consecutive months or more.  A list of flights that were chronically delayed for a single month is available from BTS.

In May, the carriers filing on-time performance data reported that 6.67 percent of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 7.57 percent in April; 7.71 percent by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 8.35 percent in April; 5.47 percent by factors within the airline’s control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 5.68 percent in April; 0.68 percent by extreme weather, compared to 0.55 percent in April; and 0.05 percent for security reasons, compared to 0.04 percent in April. 

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.

In May, 42.45 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, up 8.37 percent from May 2010, when 39.17 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, and up 6.47 percent from April when 39.87 percent of late flights were delayed by weather.


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