WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today released its Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) on airline operational data compiled for the month of August 2023 for on-time performance, mishandled baggage, and mishandled wheelchairs and scooters.
The ATCR is designed to assist consumers with information on the quality of services provided by airlines. DOT remains committed to ensuring airline passengers are treated fairly and flights operate as scheduled. For the first eight months of 2023, 1.7% of flights have been canceled, far below the 3.0% cancellation rate for the first eight months of last year and the 2.3% cancellation rate for first eight months of pre-pandemic 2019.
DOT uses the data from the ATCR, consumer complaints, and other information it secures from the airlines to inform its enforcement activities and the adequacy of existing rules.
This year, DOT has already issued the largest fines in the history of the consumer protection office primarily based on complaints received. Since the pandemic began, the Department has helped return more than $2.5 billion in refunds to travelers.
The Department is also enhancing consumer protections through rulemakings and other activities. After a two-year DOT push to improve the passenger experience, the 10 largest airlines now guarantee meals and free rebooking on the same airline and nine guarantee hotel accommodations as part of the Department’s Airline Customer Service Dashboard. DOT expanded the user-friendly dashboard at FlightRights.Gov to highlight which airlines, if any, offer cash compensation, provide travel credits or vouchers, or award frequent flyer miles when they cause flight delays or cancellations. In May, DOT announced plans to launch a new rulemaking that would propose to make passenger compensation and amenities mandatory so that travelers are taken care of when airlines cause flight delays or cancellations, such as staffing issues or mechanical problems.
Further, earlier this year, President Biden and Secretary Buttigieg pressed airlines to commit to fee-free family seating. Before their urging, no airline committed to guaranteeing fee-free family seating. Now four airlines have committed to guaranteeing fee-free family seating, and DOT is pursuing a rulemaking that would require all airlines to do so. Secretary Buttigieg also submitted to Congress a legislative proposal to require that airlines provide fee-free family seating. To further assist consumers in assessing airline family seating commitments, in March 2023, DOT rolled out a new family seating dashboard that highlights the airlines that guarantee fee-free family seating, and those that do not, making it easier for parents to avoid paying junk fees to sit with their children when they fly.
The 630,761 flights operated in August 2023 were 105.45% of the 598,166 flights operated in August 2022. Operated flights in August 2023 were up 5.45% year-over-year from the 598,166 flights operated in August 2022 and up 1.23% month-over-month from 623,120 flights operated in July 2023.
In August 2023, the 10 marketing network carriers reported 640,236 scheduled domestic flights, 9,475 (1.5%) of which were canceled. In July 2023, airlines scheduled 638,995 domestic flights, of which 15,875 (2.5%) were canceled. In August 2022, airlines scheduled 613,649 domestic flights, of which 15,483 (2.5%) were canceled.
August 2023 On-Time Arrival
In August 2023, reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 77.2% up from 69.6% in July 2023 and 75.6% in August 2022. The year-to-date on-time arrival rate for 2023 is 75.7%.
Highest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates August 2023 (ATCR Table 1)
- Hawaiian Airlines – 82.1%
- Delta Air Lines Network – 81.3%
- Alaska Airlines Network – 80.6%
Lowest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates August 2023 (ATCR Table 1)
- JetBlue Airways – 61.6%
- Frontier Airlines – 62.1%
- Spirit Airlines – 65.6%
August 2023 Flight Cancellations
In August 2023, reporting marketing carriers canceled 1.5% of their scheduled domestic flights, lower than the rate 2.5% in both July 2023 and in 2.5% in August 2022. The year-to-date cancellation rate for 2023 is 1.7%.
Lowest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights August 2023 (ATCR Table 6)
- Alaska Airlines Network – 0.4%
- Allegiant Air – 1.0%
- United Airlines Network – 1.1%
Highest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights August 2023 (ATCR Table 6)
- Frontier Airlines – 5.0%
- JetBlue Airways – 2.9%
- Southwest Airlines – 1.6%
Complaints About Airline Service
The Department continues to receive a high volume of air travel service complaints against airlines and ticket agents and its Office of Aviation Consumer Protection is processing them. The release of consumer complaint data in the ATCR has been delayed primarily because of the time needed to review and process these consumer complaints. The Department has been examining how best to review and process the consumer complaints received to avoid reporting delays as it is increasingly clear that consumer complaints are not returning to pre-pandemic levels. This review led the Department to seek a Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) investment to help modernize OACP’s outdated consumer complaint and case tracking application system that assists thousands of consumers each year. On September 29, the TMF announced that it was awarding DOT an $8 million grant towards this effort.
In August 2023, airlines reported 18 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to 63 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights reported in July 2023. In August 2023, airlines reported one tarmac delay of more than four hours on international flights, compared to three tarmac delays reported in July 2023.
Airlines are required to have and adhere to assurances that they will not allow aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours for domestic flights and four hours for international flights without providing passengers the option to deplane, subject to exceptions related to safety, security, and Air Traffic Control related reasons. An exception also exists for departure delays if the airline begins to return the aircraft to a suitable disembarkation point to deplane passengers by those times.
The Department investigates extended tarmac delays.
In August 2023, reporting marketing carriers handled 41.4 million bags and posted a mishandled baggage rate of 0.61%, lower than the rate of 0.75% in July 2023 and lower than the rate of 0.64% in August 2022.
The Department began displaying the mishandled baggage data as a percentage (i.e., per 100 bags enplaned) in January 2022. This is consistent with the manner that the mishandled wheelchairs and scooters rate is calculated and displayed.
In the prior three calendar year reports (2019 to 2021), the Department calculated the mishandled baggage rate based on the number of mishandled bags per 1,000 checked bags.
Mishandled Wheelchairs and Scooters
In August 2023, reporting marketing carriers reported checking 72,825 wheelchairs and scooters and mishandling 1,104 for a rate of 1.52% mishandled wheelchairs and scooters, higher than both the rate of 1.39% mishandled in July 2023 and 1.43% mishandled in August 2022.
To address many of the significant barriers and challenges experienced by passengers who use wheelchairs, the Department has initiated a rulemaking proposing that, if adopted after public comment would, among other actions, make it an automatic violation of the Department’s Air Carrier Access Act regulations for airlines to mishandle a passenger’s wheelchair. This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would also enhance training requirements for airline personnel who provide hands-on transfer assistance to passengers and handle wheelchairs. This rulemaking is currently under review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
Bumping/oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly.
For the second quarter of 2023, the 10 U.S. reporting marketing carriers posted an involuntary denied boarding, or bumping, rate of 0.36 per 10,000 passengers, higher than the rate of 0.29 in the first quarter of 2023 and equal to the rate of 0.36 in the second quarter of 2022.
Incidents Involving Animals
In August 2023, carriers reported zero incidents involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, down from the one report filed in July 2023, but equal to the zero reports filed in August 2022.
Consumers may file air travel consumer or civil rights complaints online at http://airconsumer.dot.gov/escomplaint/ConsumerForm.cfm or by voicemail at (202) 366-2220, or they may 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.
The ATCR and other aviation consumer matters of interest to the public can be found at https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer.
Official news published at https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/air-travel-consumer-report-august-2023-numbers