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Flight Delays Show Increase in January

Flight Delays Show Increase in January

DOT 23-04
Bill Mosley

Tuesday, March 2, 2004 - Flight delays as reported by the nation's largest airlines increased in January, according to the Air Travel Consumer Report released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

According to information filed with the department's Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the 19 carriers reporting on-time performance recorded an overall on-time arrival rate of 74.9 percent in January, down from both January 2003's 83.4 percent and December 2003's 76.0 percent. A total of 17 carriers filed on-time performance reports in January 2003 and 18 in December.

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

Causes of Flight Delays

In January, the carriers filing on-time performance reported that 9.24 percent of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 9.13 percent in December; 5.73 percent by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 6.32 percent in December; 5.56 percent by factors within the airline's control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 5.43 percent in December; 1.35 percent by extreme weather, compared to 0.76 percent in December; and 0.07 percent for security reasons, compared to 0.08 percent in December. 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. Airlines first began reporting causes of delays in June 2003.

Flight Cancellations

The consumer report also includes BTS data on the number of domestic flights canceled by the reporting carriers. In January, the carriers canceled 3.0 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, up from December 2003's 2.1 percent cancellation rate.

Mishandled Baggage

The U.S. carriers reporting flight delay and mishandled baggage data posted a mishandled baggage rate of 5.91 reports per 1,000 passengers in January, up from January 2003's 4.97 rate and slightly higher than December 2003's 5.69.

Complaints About Airline Service

In January, the department received 679 complaints about airline service from consumers, 2.2 percent fewer than the 694 received in January 2003 but 45.4 percent more than the total of 467 filed in December 2003.

Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers

The report also contains a tabulation of complaints filed with DOT in January against specific airlines regarding the treatment of passengers with disabilities. The department received a total of 45 disability-related complaints in January, 50 percent more than the total of 30 filed in January 2003 and two-thirds more than the 27 received in December 2003.

Complaints About Discrimination

In January, the department received 11 complaints alleging discrimination by airlines due to factors other than disability - such as race, religion, national origin or sex - down 15.4 percent from the total of 13 received in January 2003 but more than double the total of five recorded in December 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 information on flight delays and their causes is 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.