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.
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.
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, www.bts.gov.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com, 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 http://www.bts.gov.
The Air Travel Consumer Report can be found on DOT's World Wide Web site at http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov. 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.)
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