Airline On-Time Performance Improves in May

In its next move to regulate airlines DOT is considering requiring that all optional fees be disclosed wherever consumers can book a flight.

The largest airlines in the U.S. reported an on-time arrival rate of 83.4% in May, up from the 77.1% on-time rate of May 2011. This was down from April 2012’s 86.3% rate, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report released today.

Airlines also reported only one tarmac delay of more than three hours on a domestic flight and one tarmac delay of more than four hours on an international flight in May. The airlines canceled 0.9% of their scheduled domestic flights, down from May 2011’s 2.1% cancellation rate and April 2012’s 1.0%.

The U.S. carriers reporting flight delays and mishandled baggage data posted a mishandled baggage rate of 2.77 reports per 1,000 passengers in May, better than May 2011’s rate of 3.54 but up from April 2012’s rate of 2.63.

The airlines filing on-time performance data reported that 4.75% of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 3.56% in April; 5.56% by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 4.59% in April; 4.59% by factors within the airline’s control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 4.04% in April; 0.58% by extreme weather, compared to 0.39% in April; and 0.03% for security reasons, compared to 0.02% 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.

Data collected by BTS also shows the percentage of late flights delayed by weather, including those reported in either the category of extreme weather or included in National Aviation System delays. In May, 38.53% of late flights were delayed by weather, down 9.23% from May 2011, when 42.45% of late flights were delayed by weather, and up 35.05% from April when 28.53% of late flights were delayed by weather.

Highest On-Time Arrival Rates:

1. Hawaiian Airlines – 94.7%

2. Alaska Airlines – 91.5%

3. AirTran Airways – 88.0%

Lowest On-Time Arrival Rates

1. United Airlines – 77.8%

2. ExpressJet Airlines – 78.8%

3. American Airlines – 80.3%

Domestic Flights with Tarmac Delays Exceeding Three Hours

1. United Airlines flight 260 from Seattle to Washington Dulles, 5/27/12 – delayed on tarmac 188 minutes

International Flights with Tarmac Delays Exceeding Four Hours

1. United Airlines flight 881 from Chicago O’Hare to Tokyo, 5/7/12 – delayed on tarmac 284 minutes

Highest Rates of Canceled Flights

1. American Eagle Airlines – 2.9%

2. ExpressJet Airlines – 1.4%

3. SkyWest Airlines – 1.1%

Lowest Rates of Canceled Flights

1. Virgin America – 0.0%*

2. Hawaiian Airlines – 0.0%**

3. Frontier Airlines – 0.1%

*Virgin America canceled one flight in May.** Hawaiian Airlines canceled three flights in May.

The larger U.S. airlines have been required to file complete reports on their long tarmac delays for domestic flights since October 2008.  Under a new rule that took effect Aug. 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.

Also beginning Aug. 23, carriers operating international flights may not allow tarmac delays at U.S. airports to last longer than four hours.  There is a separate three-hour limit on tarmac delays involving domestic flights, which went into effect in April 2010.  Exceptions to the time limits for both domestic and international flights are allowed only for safety, security or air traffic control-related reasons.

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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