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Flight Delays Increase in May

Flight Delays Increase in May

DOT 97-04
Bill Mosley

Wednesday, July 7, 2004 - The nation's largest airlines experienced a higher rate of flight delays in May than in both the previous month and May 2003, 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 77.6 percent in May. This fell below both the 84.9 percent on-time arrival percentage recorded in May 2003 and the 83.0 percent mark of April 2004.

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 May, the carriers filing on-time performance reported that 8.76 percent of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 6.86 percent in April; 5.79 percent by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 4.58 percent in April; 4.66 percent by factors within the airline's control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 4.06 percent in April; 1.11 percent by extreme weather, compared to 0.54 percent in April; and 0.04 percent for security reasons, the same percentage as in April. Weather is a factor in the extreme-weather, aviation-system and the late-arriving aircraft categories. This includes delays due to the re-routing of flights by DOT's Federal Aviation Administration in consultation with the carriers involved. Airlines first began reporting causes of delays in June 2003.

Detailed information on flight delays and their causes is available on the BTS website at and

Flight Cancellations

The consumer report also includes BTS data on the number of domestic flights canceled by the reporting carriers. In May, the carriers canceled 1.7 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, above the rate of 0.8 recorded in both May 2003 and April 2004.

Mishandled Baggage

The U.S. carriers reporting flight delay and mishandled baggage data posted a mishandled baggage rate of 4.13 reports per 1,000 passengers in May, higher than both May 2003's 3.65 rate and April 2004's 3.67.

Complaints About Airline Service

In May, the department received 447 complaints from consumers about airline service, 8.6 percent fewer than the 489 received in May 2003 and 19.6 percent fewer than the total of 556 filed in April 2004.

Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers

The report also contains a tabulation of complaints filed with DOT in April against specific airlines regarding the treatment of passengers with disabilities. The department received a total of 48 disability-related complaints in May, nearly triple the 17 complaints received in May 2003 and 14.3 percent more than the 42 received in April 2004.

Complaints About Discrimination

In May, the department received 11 complaints alleging discrimination by airlines due to factors other than disability – such as race, religion, national origin or sex – compared to the totals of four received in May 2003 and seven in April 2004.

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.

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.

Air Travel Consumer Report May 2004
Key On-Time Performance and Flight Cancellation Statistics

Based on Data Filed with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics by the 19 Reporting Carriers


77.6 percent on-time arrivals

Highest On-Time Arrival Rates

1. Hawaiian Airlines – 95.2 percent
2. SkyWest Airlines – 86.8 percent
3. JetBlue Airways – 83.4 percent

Lowest On-Time Arrival Rates

1. Atlantic Coast Airlines – 69.4 percent
2. American Eagle Airlines – 69.5 percent
3. ExpressJet Airlines – 74.0 percent

Most Frequently Delayed Flights

1. ExpressJet flight 2933 from Augusta, GA to Newark, NJ – late 92.31 percent of the time
2. American Eagle Airlines flight 4264 from Memphis, TN to Chicago O'Hare – late 90.32 percent of the time
3. Southwest Airlines flight 106 from Nashville, TN to Orlando, FL – late 88.46 percent of the time
3. American Eagle Airlines flight 4288 from Milwaukee to Chicago O'Hare – late 88.46 percent of the time
5. American Eagle flight 4025 from Chicago O'Hare to Norfolk/Virginia Beach/Williamsburg, VA – late 87.10 percent of the time
5. Atlantic Southeast Airlines flight 4380 from Baton Rouge, LA to Atlanta – late87.10 percent of the time

Highest Rates of Canceled Flights

1. American Eagle Airlines – 5.5 percent
2. Atlantic Coast Airlines – 4.1 percent
3. ExpressJet Airlines – 2.6 percent

Lowest Rates of Canceled Flights

1. JetBlue Airways – 0.0 percent*
2. Hawaiian Airlines – 0.2 percent
3. ATA Airlines – 0.3 percent

*JetBlue cancelled two of 7,335 scheduled flights in May.