You are here

Airline On-Time Performance Improves in January

Airline On-Time Performance Improves in January


DOT 37-06
Bill Mosley

Wednesday, March 1, 2006 - The on-time performance of the nation's largest airlines improved 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 Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), a part of DOT's Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), the 19 carriers reporting on-time performance recorded an overall on-time arrival rate of 78.8 percent in January, an improvement over both January 2005's 71.4 percent and December 2005's 71.0 percent.

The monthly report also includes data on flight cancellations and 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. The report also includes reports required to be filed by U.S. carriers of incidents involving pets traveling by air.

On-time performance and mishandled baggage information for Mesa Airlines, which was required to begin filing this data in January, appear for the first time in this report. Also beginning with this report, America West Airlines, which recently merged with US Airways, is no longer included in the on-time, mishandled baggage or consumer complaint rankings.


The consumer report includes BTS data on the number of domestic flights canceled by the reporting carriers. In January, the carriers canceled 1.7 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, a smaller rate of cancellations than both January 2005's 4.2 percent and December 2005's 1.9 percent.

Causes of Flight Delays

The carriers filing on-time performance data reported that 7 percent of their January flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 9.46 percent in December 2005; 5.61 percent by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 8.18 percent in December; 5.81 percent by factors within the airline's control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 8.06 percent in December; 0.87 percent by extreme weather, compared to 1.13 in December; and 0.04 percent for security reasons, compared to 0.10 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.

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, 4.70 percent of flights were delayed by weather, down 23.45 percent from January 2005, when 6.14 percent of flights were delayed by weather, and down 11.49 percent from December 2005 when 5.31 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 6.92 reports per 1,000 passengers in January, fewer than both January 2005's 8.00 rate and December 2005's 7.73 mark.

Incidents Involving Pets

In January, carriers reported two incidents involving pets while traveling by air – one injury and one death – up from the single incident reported in December. Carriers first began reporting pet incidents in May 2005.

Complaints About Airline Service

In January, the Department received 826 complaints from consumers about airline service, down 40.1 percent from the total of 1,378 received in January 2005 but 29.1 percent more than the 640 filed in December 2005.

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 42 disability-related complaints in January, down 16 percent from the 50 complaints received in January 2005 but 40 percent more than the total of 30 filed in December 2005.

Complaints About Discrimination

In January, the Department received 10 complaints alleging discrimination by airlines due to factors other than disability – such as race, religion, national origin or sex – fewer than both the 14 complaints received in January 2005 and the 13 filed in December 2005.

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 2006
Key On-Time Performance and Flight Cancellation Statistics

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


78.8 percent on-time arrivals

Highest On-Time Arrival Rates

1. Hawaiian Airlines – 95.9 percent

2. Southwest Airlines – 84.4 percent

3. Frontier Airlines – 82.5 percent

Lowest On-Time Arrival Rates

1. JetBlue Airways – 70.6 percent

2. Alaska Airlines – 71.2 percent

3. Atlantic Southeast Airlines – 72.9 percent

Most Frequently Delayed Flights

1. American Eagle Airlines flight 4897 from New York LaGuardia to Charlotte, NC – late 92.59 percent of the time

2. SkyWest Airlines flight 6243 from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, CA – late 86.96 percent of the time

3. American Eagle Airlines flight 4685 from New York JFK to Chicago O'Hare – late 83.87 percent of the time

4. Comair flight 5375 from Cincinnati to New York LaGuardia – late 82.61 percent of the time

5. American Eagle Airlines flight 4838 from Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport to New York LaGuardia – late 82.35 percent of the time

Highest Rates of Canceled Flights

1. Mesa Airlines – 4.2 percent

2. Atlantic Southeast Airlines – 3.1 percent

3. American Eagle Airlines – 3.0 percent

Lowest Rates of Canceled Flights

1. Hawaiian Airlines – 0.0 percent

2. JetBlue Airways – 0.2 percent

3. Frontier Airlines – 0.3 percent