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Flight Delays, Cancellations Increase in January

Flight Delays, Cancellations Increase in January

DOT 37-05
Bill Mosley

Wednesday, March 2, 2005 - The nation's largest airlines experienced a higher rate of flight delays and cancellations in January 2005 than in either the previous month or in January of last year, according to the Air Travel Consumer Report, released today by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

According to information filed with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), a part of DOT's Research and Innovative Technology Administration, the 19 carriers reporting on-time performance recorded an overall on-time arrival rate of 71.4 percent in January, down from January 2004's 74.9 percent and slightly below December 2004's 71.6 percent rate. The carriers canceled 4.2 percent of their scheduled flights in January, up from both January 2004's 3.0 percent rate and December 2004's 2.8 percent rate.

The monthly report also includes data on the causes of flight delays, as well as information on 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 data reported that 8.96 percent of their January flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 8.60 percent in December 2004; 7.17 percent by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 8.12 percent in December; 6.52 percent by factors within the airline's control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 7.24 percent in December; 1.38 percent by extreme weather, compared to 1.29 percent in December; and 0.07 percent for security reasons, compared to 0.13 percent in December. 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 January, 6.14 percent of flights were delayed by weather, down 0.97 percent from January 2004, when 6.20 percent of flights were delayed by weather and up 14.34 percent from December when 5.37 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

Mishandled Baggage

The U.S. carriers reporting flight delay and mishandled baggage data posted a mishandled baggage rate of 7.88 reports per 1,000 passengers in January, higher than January 2004's 5.91 rate, but below December 2004's 9.11 rate.

Complaints About Airline Service

In January, the Department received 1,375 complaints from consumers about airline service, more than double the total of 680 received in January 2004 and 40.9 percent more than the total of 976 received in December 2004.

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 48 disability-related complaints in January, 9.1 percent more than the 44 complaints received in January 2004 and 23.1 percent more than the total of 39 complaints filed in December 2004.

Complaints About Discrimination

In January, the Department received 13 complaints alleging discrimination by airlines due to factors other than disability – such as race, religion, national origin or sex – compared to 11 complaints in January 2004 and 10 complaints in December 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 January 2005
Key On-Time Performance and Flight Cancellation Statistics

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


71.4 percent on-time arrivals

Highest On-Time Arrival Rates

1. Hawaiian Airlines – 92.6 percent

2. Continental Airlines – 78.0 percent

3. Southwest Airlines– 75.6 percent

Lowest On-Time Arrival Rates

1. JetBlue Airways – 63.1 percent

2. American Eagle Airlines – 65.8 percent

3. Comair – 67.3 percent

Most Frequently Delayed Flights

1. US Airways flight 435 from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Philadelphia – late 93.55 percent of the time

2. JetBlue Airways flight 40 from Fort Lauderdale, FL to New York JFK – late 87.10 percent of the time

3. ExpressJet Airlines flight 2444 from Houston to Washington Dulles – late 86.96 percent of the time

4. Atlantic Southeast Airlines flight 4809 from Cincinnati to Tulsa, OK – late 86.67 percent of the time

5. Comair flight 5442 from Newark, NJ to Cincinnati – late 85.71 percent of the time

Highest Rates of Canceled Flights

1. Atlantic Southeast Airlines – 8.1 percent

2. American Eagle Airlines – 7.3 percent

3. Independence Air – 7.2 percent

Lowest Rates of Canceled Flights

1. Hawaiian Airlines – 0.5 percent

2. Continental Airlines – 1.4 percent

3. Southwest Airlines – 2.0 percent