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Complaints About Air Service Continue to Decrease, DOT Report Shows

Complaints About Air Service Continue to Decrease, DOT Report Shows

DOT 01-04
Paul Takemoto

Wednesday, January 7, 2004 - Complaints about airline service filed by consumers with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) fell for the fourth consecutive month in November, according to the department's monthly Air Travel Consumer Report.

DOT received 382 complaints in November, 26.4 percent below the total of 519 received in November 2002 and 4.0 percent fewer than the 398 complaints received this past October.

The monthly report also includes data on the number and causes of flight delays, as well as information on flight cancellations, reports of mishandled baggage filed with the carriers, and consumer disability and discrimination complaints received by the Aviation Consumer Protection Division.

Flight Delays*

According to information filed with the department's Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the U.S. commercial air carriers reporting on-time performance posted an 80.2 percent on-time arrival record in November, down from October's 86.4 percent mark. Hawaiian Airlines - which is voluntarily filing on-time and baggage mishandling data for the first time this month - had the highest on-time rate in November at 93.3 percent.

Causes of Flight Delays

In November, the carriers filing their on-time performance reported that 8.78 percent of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 5.43 percent in October; 4.73 percent by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 3.29 percent in October; 4.02 percent by factors within the airline's control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 3.49 percent in October; 0.64 percent by extreme weather, compared to 0.30 percent in October; and 0.04 percent for security reasons, compared to 0.05 percent in October. The department noted that weather is a factor not only in the extreme-weather category, but also in the aviation-system category - which includes delays due to the re-routing of flights by DOT's Federal Aviation Administration in consultation with the carriers involved - and the late-arriving aircraft category. Additional numbers can be found at the BTS website,

Flight Cancellations*

The consumer report also includes BTS data on the number of domestic flights canceled by the reporting carriers. In November, the carriers canceled 1.4 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, up from October's 0.9 percent cancellation rate.

Mishandled Baggage*

The U.S. carriers reporting flight delays and mishandled baggage data posted a mishandled baggage rate of 3.54 reports per 1,000 passengers in November, up from October's 3.23 rate.

Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers

The report also contains a tabulation of complaints filed with DOT in November against specific airlines regarding the treatment of passengers with disabilities. The department received a total of 48 disability-related complaints in November, 54.8 percent more than the total of 31 filed in November 2002 and 41.2 percent more than the 34 recorded in October 2003.

Complaints About Discrimination

In November, the department received four complaints alleging discrimination by airlines due to factors other than disability - such as race, religion, national origin or sex - one fewer than the total of five recorded in November 2002 and one-third fewer than the six recorded in October 2003.

Consumers may file their complaints in writing with the Aviation Consumer Protection Division, U.S. Department of Transportation, C-75, Room 4107, 400 7th St., S.W., Washington, DC 20590, by e-mail at, by voice mail at (202) 366-2220 or by TTY at (202) 366-0511.

Consumers who want on-time performance data for specific flights should call their airline ticket offices or their travel agents. This information is available on the computerized reservation systems used by these agents. Detailed flight delay information is also available on the BTS site on the World Wide Web at

The Air Travel Consumer Report can be found on DOT's World Wide Web site at It is available in "pdf" and Microsoft Word format.

* (Due to a difference in the number of carriers reporting flight delays, flight cancellations and mishandled baggage data in November 2003 from November 2002, those categories compare data only from October 2003 to November 2003.)

Air Travel Consumer Report November 2003
Key On-time Performance and Flight Cancellation Statistics

Based on Data Filed with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics by the 18 Reporting Carriers


80.2 percent on-time arrivals - 30th best month on record since 1995

Highest On-Time Arrival Rates

  1. Hawaiian Airlines - 93.3 percent
  2. JetBlue Airways - 88.8 percent
  3. Southwest Airlines - 85.5 percent

Lowest On-Time Arrival Rates

  1. American Eagle Airlines - 71.1 percent
  2. Atlantic Coast Airlines - 73.4 percent
  3. ATA Airlines - 74.7 percent

Most Frequently Delayed Flights

  1. Atlantic Coast Airlines flight 7663 from Moline, IL to Chicago O'Hare - late 93.33 percent of the time
  2. American Eagle Airlines flight 3928 from Moline, IL to Chicago O'Hare - late 93.10 percent of the time
  3. American Airlines flight 1733 from Newark, NJ to Chicago O'Hare - late 91.67 percent of the time
    American Airlines flight 772 from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Chicago O'Hare - late 91.67 percent of the time
    United Airlines flight 471 from Chicago O'Hare to Minneapolis-St. Paul - late 91.67 percent of the time

Highest Rates of Canceled Flights

  1. American Eagle Airlines - 4.0 percent
  2. Atlantic Coast Airlines - 3.2 percent
  3. Alaska Airlines - 1.9 percent

Lowest Rates of Canceled Flights

  1. JetBlue Airways - 0.03 percent
  2. Hawaiian Airlines - 0.3 percent
  3. Delta Air Lines - 0.5 percent