Airline Performance: Tarmac Delays Up

The airlines’ on-time arrival performance in June 2011 was an improvement from June 2010, but down from May 2011, 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 76.9 percent in June, up from the 76.4 percent on-time rate of June 2010 but down from May 2011’s 77.1 percent rate.

The carriers reported 14 total tarmac delays of more than three hours in June, compared to three in June 2010 and 16 in May 2011.  Five of the tarmac delays occurred at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on June 21 and three at Washington Dulles Airport on June 16, all taking place on days the areas experienced storms. All of the reported tarmac delays are under investigation by the Department, the DOT says.

During June, the carriers canceled 1.8 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, compared to 1.5 percent in June 2010 and 2.1 percent in May 2011.

At the end of June, there were four 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 six flights that were chronically delayed for two consecutive months.  There were no chronically delayed flights for four consecutive months or more. 

In June, the carriers filing on-time performance data reported that 6.06 percent of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 6.67 percent in May; 8.15 percent by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 7.71 percent in May; 6.10 percent by factors within the airline’s control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 5.47 percent in May; 0.67 percent by extreme weather, compared to 0.68 percent in May; and 0.04 percent for security reasons, compared to 0.05 percent in May.

DOT notes that 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.

The U.S. carriers reporting flight delays and mishandled baggage data posted a mishandled baggage rate of 3.57 reports per 1,000 passengers in June, down from June 2010’s rate of 3.65, but up from May 2011’s rate of 3.52.  For the first six months of the year, the carriers posted a mishandled baggage rate of 3.57 per 1,000 passengers, down from the 3.61 rate for the first half of 2010.

The DOT report also includes reports of involuntary denied boarding, or bumping, for the second quarter and first six months of this year.  The 16 U.S. carriers who report denied boarding data posted a bumping rate of 0.85 per 10,000 passengers for the quarter, down from the 1.07 rate for the second quarter of 2010.  For the first six months of this year, the carriers had a bumping rate of 0.87 per 10,000 passengers, down from the rate of 1.39 rate posted during the first six months of 2010.   


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