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Flight Delays Increase in October 2004

Flight Delays Increase in October 2004

DOT 206-04
Bill Mosley

Thursday, December 2, 2004 - The nation's largest airlines experienced a higher rate of flight delays in October 2004 than in both September 2004 and October 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 81.0 percent in October, down from both October 2003's rate of 86.4 percent and September 2004's 83.9 percent.

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

The carriers filing on-time performance reported that 7.09 percent of their October flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 5.01 percent in September 2004; 5.26 percent by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 3.50 percent in September; 4.51 percent by factors within the airline's control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 3.71 percent in September; 0.84 percent by extreme weather, compared to 0.55 percent in September; and 0.05 percent for security reasons, compared to 0.07 percent in September. 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. Airlines first began reporting causes of delays in June 2003.

Data collected by BTS also show the percentage of overall flights delayed by weather, including those reported in either the category of extreme weather or included in National Aviation System delays. In October, 4.47 percent of flights were delayed by weather, up 78.1 percent from October 2003 when 2.77 percent of flights were delayed by weather, and up 59.8 percent from September 2004 when 2.91 percent of flights were delayed by weather.

Detailed information on flight delays and their causes is available on the BTS site on the World Wide Web at

Flight Cancellations

The consumer report also includes BTS data on the number of domestic flights canceled by the reporting carriers. In October, the carriers canceled 1.1 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, up slightly from both cancellation rates of 0.9 percent in October 2003 and but well below the 3.1 percent rate recorded in September 2004.

Mishandled Baggage

The U.S. carriers reporting flight delay and mishandled baggage data posted a mishandled baggage rate of 4.02 reports per 1,000 passengers in October, higher than both October 2003's 3.23 percent and September 2004's 3.81 percent.

Complaints About Airline Service

In October, the Department received 480 complaints from consumers about airline service, 20.6 percent more than the total of 398 received in October 2003 but 18.9 percent fewer than the 592 recorded in September 2004.

Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers

The report also contains a tabulation of complaints filed with DOT in October against specific airlines regarding the treatment of passengers with disabilities. The Department received a total of 39 disability-related complaints in October, 14.7 percent above the total of 34 received in October 2003 and 25.8 percent more than the 31 recorded in September 2004.

Complaints About Discrimination

In October, the Department received seven complaints alleging discrimination by airlines due to factors other than disability – such as race, religion, national origin or sex – compared to six in October 2003 and nine in September 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. SW, 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 October 2004
Key On-Time Performance and Flight Cancellation Statistics

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


81.0 percent on-time arrivals

Highest On-Time Arrival Rates

1. Hawaiian Airlines – 95.3 percent

2. Continental Airlines – 87.7 percent

3. JetBlue Airways – 86.8 percent

Lowest On-Time Arrival Rates

1. Atlantic Southeast Airlines – 71.5 percent

2. America West Airlines – 76.7 percent

3. American Eagle Airlines – 78.2 percent

Most Frequently Delayed Flight

ExpressJet Airlines Flight 3346 from Washington Dulles to Newark, NJ – late 100 percent of the time

Highest Rates of Canceled Flights

1. Atlantic Southeast Airlines – 2.6 percent

2. American Eagle Airlines – 2.6 percent

3. Atlantic Coast Airlines – 2.4 percent

Lowest Rates of Canceled Flights

1. JetBlue Airways – 0.1 percent

2. Continental Airlines – 0.1 percent

3. Hawaiian Airlines – 0.1 percent