Air Travel Consumer Report: March 2023 and 1st Quarter 2023 Numbers

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation today released its Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) on airline operational data compiled for the month of March 2023 and the first quarter of 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 three months of 2023, cancellations have stayed below 2% and are far lower than last year’s 2.7% cancellation rate and the rate of 4.1% for the first three months of 2022. The Department is currently investigating several domestic airlines to ensure that they are not engaging in unrealistic scheduling of flights. 

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.

DOT is taking unprecedented action to ensure the traveling public is protected. Last year, DOT issued the largest fines in the history of the consumer protection office – helping to get hundreds of thousands of people hundreds of millions of dollars back. And since 2021, DOT has helped return more than $1 billion in refunds to travelers. 

Earlier this month, DOT announced plans to launch a new rulemaking that is aimed at requiring airlines to provide compensation and cover expenses for amenities such as meals, hotels, and rebooking when airlines are responsible for stranding passengers. After a two-year DOT push to improve the passenger experience, the 10 largest airlines 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 dashboard last week at FlightRights.Gov to highlight which airlines currently offer cash compensation, provide travel credits or vouchers, or award frequent flyer miles when they cause flight delays or cancellations. DOT’s planned rulemaking would, if adopted in final, make passenger compensation and amenities mandatory so that travelers are taken care of when airlines cause flight disruptions.

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 three 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.

Flight Operations

The 608,387 flights operated in March 2023 were 104.64% of the 581,434 flights operated in March 2022. Operated flights in March 2023 were up 4.64% year-over-year from the 581,434 flights operated in March 2022 and up 15.54% month-over-month from 526,543 flights operated in February 2023.

In March 2023, the 10 marketing network carriers reported 616,234 scheduled domestic flights, 7,847 (1.3%) of which were canceled. In February 2023, airlines scheduled 536,229 domestic flights, of which 9,686 (1.8%) were canceled. In March 2022, airlines scheduled 590,542 domestic flights, of which 9108 (1.5%) were canceled.

March 2023 On-Time Arrival

In March 2023, reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 75.4%, down from both the rate of 79.4% in February 2023 and from the rate of 77.2% in March 2022. The year-to-date on-time arrival rate for 2023 is 76.9%.

Highest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates March 2023 (ATCR Table 1)

  1. Delta Air Lines Network – 79.2%
  2. Alaska Airlines Network – 78.1%
  3. United Airlines Network – 76.9% 

Lowest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates March 2023 (ATCR Table 1)

  1. Hawaiian Airlines – 59.5%
  2. Spirit Airlines – 64.0%
  3. Allegiant Air – 64.2%

For the first three months of 2023, the reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 76.89%, up from 76.35% for the same period in 2022.

March 2023 Flight Cancellations

In March 2023, reporting marketing carriers canceled 1.3% of their scheduled domestic flights, lower than both the rate 1.8% in February 2023 and the rate of 1.5% in March 2022.

Lowest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights March 2023 (ATCR Table 6)

  1. Hawaiian Airlines – 0.7%  
  2. Allegiant Air – 0.8% 
  3. Southwest Airlines – 0.9%    

Highest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights March 2023 (ATCR Table 6)

  1. Delta Air Lines Network – 1.7%    
  2. Spirit Airlines – 1.7%    
  3. JetBlue Airways – 1.6%    

For the first three months of 2023, the reporting marketing carriers posted a cancellation rate of 1.7%, down from 4.1% for the same period in 2022.

Complaints About Airline Service

The Department received a high volume of air travel service complaints and inquiries against airlines and ticket agents in recent months. The Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection is working diligently to process the large number of complaints and inquiries received. Nevertheless, the issuance of the ATCR has been delayed because of the time needed to review and process these consumer complaints. Consumer complaint data for March 2023 will be publicly available in its usual format in July at https://www.transportation.gov/individuals/aviation-consumer-protection/air-travel-consumer-reports.

Tarmac Delays

In March 2023, airlines reported 13 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to 12 tarmac delays reported in February 2023. In March 2023, airlines reported one tarmac delay of more than four hours on international flights, compared to four tarmac delays reported in February 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.

Extended tarmac delays are investigated by the Department.

Mishandled Baggage

In March 2023, reporting marketing carriers handled 42.0 million bags and posted a mishandled baggage rate of 0.58%, lower than the February 2023 rate of 0.61%, but higher than the March 2022 rate of 0.57%.

For the first quarter of 2023, the carriers posted a mishandled baggage rate of 0.64%, equal to the rate of 0.64 posted in the fourth quarter of 2022 and lower than the rate of 0.65% posted in the first quarter of 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 March 2023, reporting marketing carriers reported checking 61,972 wheelchairs and scooters and mishandling 909 for a rate of 1.47% mishandled wheelchairs and scooters, lower than the rate of 1.54% mishandled in February 2023 and higher than the rate of 1.43% mishandled in March 2022.

For the first quarter of 2023, the carriers posted a mishandled wheelchair and scooter rate of 1.53%, lower than the rate of 1.54 posted in the fourth quarter of 2022, but higher than the rate of 1.47% posted in the first quarter of 2022.

Bumping/Oversales

Bumping/oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly.
For the first quarter of 2023, the 10 U.S. reporting marketing carriers posted an involuntary denied boarding, or bumping, rate of 0.30 per 10,000 passengers, lower than both the rate of 0.32 posted in the fourth quarter of 2022 and the rate of 0.44 posted in the first quarter of 2022.

Incidents Involving Animals

In March 2023, carriers reported no incidents involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, down from the four reports filed in February 2023 and equal to the zero reports filed in March 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.

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Official news published at https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/air-travel-consumer-report-march-2023-and-1st-quarter-2023-numbers

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