DOT: Airlines Report Tarmac Delays, On-time and Cancellations

Airlines reported a total of three tarmac delays longer than three hours on domestic flights in September, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report. All three of the reported tarmac delays involved flights departing from Washington Dulles International Airport on September 14, when there were severe thunderstorms in the area.

DOT notes that the larger U.S. airlines have been required to report tarmac delays of more than three hours on their domestic flights since April 29, 2010. Under a new rule that took effect August 23, 2011, all U.S. and foreign airlines operating at least one aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats must report lengthy tarmac delays at U.S. airports. The new report is the first since the new rule went into effect.

Also beginning August 23, carriers operating international flights may not allow tarmac delays at U.S. airports to last longer than four hours. This is in addition to the three-hour limit on domestic tarmac delays, which went into effect in April 2010. There were no reports of international flights with tarmac delays of more than four hours between August 23 and September 30.

“These new reports will give consumers a more complete picture of tarmac delays at U.S. airports, and provide the Department additional information to help us ensure the carriers are complying with our rules,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.
Exceptions to the time limits for both domestic and international flights are allowed only for safety, security or air traffic control-related reasons.

On-Time Performance- Information filed shows that the 16 carriers reporting on-time performance recorded an overall on-time arrival rate of 83.9 percent in September, down slightly from the 85.1 percent on-time rate of September 2010, but up from August 2011’s 79.3 percent rate.

Cancellations- During September, the carriers canceled 0.8 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, down from both September 2010’s 0.9 percent cancellation rate and August 2011’s 2.5 percent.

Chronically Delayed Flights- At the end of September, there were six flights that were chronically delayed – more than 30 minutes late more than 50 percent of the time – for three consecutive months. There were an additional four flights that were chronically delayed for two consecutive months. There were no chronically delayed flights for four consecutive months or more. 

Causes of Flight Delays- In September, the carriers filing on-time performance data reported that 5.16 percent of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 5.19 percent in August; 5.24 percent by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 6.63 percent in August; 4.29 percent by factors within the airline’s control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 5.28 percent in August; 0.37 percent by extreme weather, compared to 0.70 percent in August; and 0.03 percent for security reasons, compared to 0.04 percent in August.  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, DOT said.

Mishandled Baggage- The U.S. carriers reporting flight delays and mishandled baggage data posted a mishandled baggage rate of 2.81 reports per 1,000 passengers in September, down from both September 2010’s rate of 2.83 and August 2011’s rate of 3.44. For the first nine months of this year, the carriers posted a mishandled baggage rate of 3.49 reports per 1,000 passengers, down from the 3.52 rate recorded during the first nine months of 2010.

Bumping- The report also includes reports of involuntary denied boarding, or bumping, for the third quarter and first nine months of this year from U.S. carriers who also report flight delay information. These carriers posted a bumping rate of 0.80 per 10,000 passengers for the quarter, down from the 0.87 rate for the third quarter of 2010. For the first nine months of this year, the carriers had a bumping rate of 0.85 per 10,000 passengers, down from the rate of 1.21 rate posted during the first nine months of 2010.   


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