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Airlines Report Sixteen Tarmac Delays Over Three Hours on Domestic Flights, Eight Tarmac Delays Longer Than Four Hours on International Flights in February

Press Release Number: 
DOT 32-15
Thursday, April 9, 2015
Media Contact: 
Caitlin Harvey, 202-366-4570

WASHINGTON – Airlines reported 16 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights and eight tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights in February, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report released today.  Nine of the reported tarmac delays involved flights departing from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on February 27 during a snow storm.  All of the reported tarmac delays are under investigation by the Department.

Airlines operating international flights may not allow tarmac delays at U.S. airports to last longer than four hours without giving passengers an opportunity to deplane.  There is a separate three-hour limit on tarmac delays involving domestic flights.  Exceptions to the time limits for both domestic and international flights are allowed only for safety, security, or air traffic control-related reasons.  DOT rules require all U.S. and foreign airlines operating at least one aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats to report lengthy tarmac delays at U.S. airports. 

In addition, the nation’s largest airlines posted an on-time arrival rate of 72.8 percent in February, up from the 70.7 percent on-time rate in February 2014, but down from the 76.8 percent mark in January 2015.

The consumer report also includes data on cancellations, chronically delayed flights, and the causes of flight delays filed with the Department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) by the reporting carriers.  In addition, the consumer report contains statistics on mishandled baggage, as well as customer service, disability, and discrimination complaints received by DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division.  The Department routinely contacts individual carriers when it notices spikes or significant variations in complaint types or complaint levels in regulated areas.  The consumer report also includes reports of incidents involving the loss, death, or injury of animals traveling by air, as required to be filed by U.S. carriers.


In February, the reporting carriers canceled 4.8 percent of their scheduled domestic flights in February, an improvement over the 5.5 percent cancellation rate posted in February 2014, but up from the 2.5 percent rate in January 2015.

Chronically Delayed Flights

At the end of February, there were three flights that were chronically delayed – more than 30 minutes late more than 50 percent of the time – for three consecutive months.  There were an additional 62 regularly scheduled flights that were chronically delayed for two consecutive months.  There were no chronically delayed flights for four consecutive months or more.  A list of flights that were chronically delayed for a single month is available from BTS.

Causes of Flight Delays

In February, the carriers filing on-time performance data reported that 6.88 percent of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 6.36 percent in January; 7.76 percent by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 7.31 percent in January; 6.44 percent by factors within the airline’s control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 6.01 percent in January; 1.07 percent by extreme weather, compared to 0.70 percent in January; and 0.03 percent for security reasons, equal to 0.03 percent in January. 

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 shows the percentage of late flights delayed by weather, including those reported in either the category of extreme weather or included in National Aviation System delays.  In February, 34.77 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, up from 32.84 percent in January and from 32.73 percent in February 2014.

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

Mishandled Baggage

The U.S. carriers reporting flight delays and mishandled baggage data posted a mishandled baggage rate of 3.92 reports per 1,000 passengers in February, down from both February 2014’s rate of 4.21 and January 2015’s rate of 4.33. 

Incidents Involving Animals

In February, carriers reported four incidents involving the loss, injury, or death of animals while traveling by air, up from the three reports filed in in January 2015.  February’s incidents involved the death of one animal, two injured animals, and one lost animal. 

Complaints About Airline Service

In February, the Department received 1,362 complaints about airline service from consumers, up 16.0 percent from the total of 1,174 filed in February 2014, but down 8.0 percent from the 1,480 received in January 2015. 

Also, in February, approximately 15,000 consumers who purchased tickets from United Airlines’ Denmark website at the mistaken fare levels wrote to the Department asking that United be required to honor those fares.  After careful review of the matter, the Department’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings decided not to action against United for not honoring the tickets and to record the consumer submissions as opinions in its consumer complaint application database.  For additional information see .

Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers

The report also contains a tabulation of complaints filed with DOT in February against airlines regarding the treatment of passengers with disabilities.  The Department received a total of 56 disability-related complaints in February, up from both the 37 complaints received in February 2014 and the 53 complaints received in January 2015.

Complaints About Discrimination

In February, the Department received five complaints alleging discrimination by airlines due to factors other than disability – such as race, religion, national origin, or sex – equal to the total of five recorded in February 2014, but down from the six recorded in January 2015.

Consumers may file their complaints in writing with the Aviation Consumer Protection Division, U.S. Department of Transportation, C-75, W96-432, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20590; by voice mail at (202) 366-2220 or by TTY at (202) 366-0511; or on the web at

Consumers who want on-time performance data for specific flights should call their airline’s reservation number or their travel agent.  This information is available on the computerized reservation systems used by these agents.  The information is also available on the appropriate carrier’s website.

The Air Travel Consumer Report can be found on DOT’s website at


April 2015

Based on Data Filed with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics by the 14 Reporting Carriers and Tarmac Data Filed by All Carriers


     72.8 percent on-time arrivals

Highest On-Time Arrival Rates

  1. Alaska Airlines – 85.1 percent
  2. Hawaiian Airlines – 82.2 percent
  3. Delta Air Lines – 78.0 percent

Lowest On-Time Arrival Rates 

  1. Envoy Air – 53.3 percent
  2. Frontier Airlines – 58.8 percent
  3. JetBlue Airways – 59.7 percent

Domestic Flights with Longest Tarmac Delays Exceeding Three Hours

  1. US Airways flight 555 from Philadelphia to Salt Lake City, 2/21/15 – delayed on tarmac 271 minutes
  2. America Airlines flight 125 from Dallas-Fort Worth to Atlanta, 2/27/15 – delayed on tarmac 225 minutes
  3. American Airlines flight 1095 from Dallas-Fort Worth to Los Angeles Ontario, 2/27/15 – delayed on tarmac 203 minutes
  4. American Airlines flight 1406 from Miami to New York JFK, 2/21/15 – delayed on tarmac 202 minutes
  5. American Airlines flight 157 from Dallas-Fort Worth to Portland, Ore., 2/27/15 – delayed on tarmac 197 minutes

International Flights with Longest Tarmac Delays Exceeding Four Hours

  1. Lufthansa flight 401 from New York JFK to Frankfurt, Germany, 2/2/15 – delayed on tarmac 420 minutes
  2. Frontier Airlines flight 73 from Cancún, Mexico to Denver, 2/21/15 – delayed on tarmac 318 minutes in Pueblo, Colo.
  3. British Airways flight 202 from Boston to London Heathrow, 2/9/15 – delayed on tarmac 306 minutes
  4. British Airways flight 216 from Washington Dulles to London Heathrow, 2/21/15 – delayed on tarmac 302 minutes
  5. Eva Air flight 32 from Taipei City, Taiwan to New York JFK, 2/2/15 – delayed on tarmac 286 minutes

Highest Rates of Canceled Flights

  1. Envoy Air – 14.4 percent
  2. ExpressJet Airlines – 6.7 percent
  3. JetBlue Airways – 6.6 percent

Lowest Rates of Canceled Flights

  1. Hawaiian Airlines – 0.1 percent
  2. Alaska Airlines – 0.9 percent
  3. Frontier Airlines – 1.9 percent