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Airlines Report Two Tarmac Delays Over Three Hours on Domestic Flights, No Tarmac Delay Longer Than Four Hours on International Flights in April

Press Release Number: 
DOT 56-13
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Media Contact: 
Bill Mosley, (202) 366-4570

Airlines reported two tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights and no tarmac delays of more than four hours on an international flight in April, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report released today. 

The larger U.S. airlines have been required to file complete reports on their long tarmac delays for domestic flights since October 2008.  Under a rule that took effect Aug. 23, 2011, all U.S. and foreign airlines operating at least one aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats must report lengthy tarmac delays at U.S. airports.

Also beginning Aug. 23, 2011, carriers 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, which went into effect in April 2010.  Exceptions to the time limits for both domestic and international flights are allowed only for safety, security, or air traffic control-related reasons.  Severe weather could cause or exacerbate such situations.

The 16 airlines that file their on-time performance data with the Department reported that 77.3 percent of their flights arrived on time in April, down from April 2012’s 86.3 percent on-time rate and March 2013’s 79.8 percent mark. 

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 information on mishandled baggage reports filed by consumers with the carriers, and consumer service, disability, and discrimination complaints received by DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division.  The consumer report also includes reports of incidents involving the loss, death, or injury of pets traveling by air, as required to be filed by U.S. carriers.


The reporting carriers canceled 1.8 percent of their scheduled domestic flights in April, up from both the 1.0 percent cancellation rate posted in April 2012 and the 1.6 percent rate of March 2013.

Chronically Delayed Flights

At the end of April, there were two 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 18 flights that were chronically delayed for two consecutive months.  There were no chronically delayed flights for four months or more.  A list of flights that were chronically delayed for a single month is available from BTS.

Causes of Flight Delays

In April, the carriers filing on-time performance data reported that 6.76 percent of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 5.91 percent in March; 8.11 percent by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 6.95 percent in March; 5.29 percent by factors within the airline’s control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 5.05 percent in March; 0.56 percent by extreme weather, compared to 0.47 percent in March; and 0.04 percent for security reasons, the same percentage as March. 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 April, 34.34 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, up 20.36 percent from April 2012, when 28.53 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, and up 0.64 percent from March when 34.12 percent of late 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 delays and mishandled baggage data posted a mishandled baggage rate of 3.08 reports per 1,000 passengers in April, up from both April 2012’s rate of 2.63 and March 2013’s rate of 3.05.

Incidents Involving Pets

In April, carriers reported three incidents involving the loss, death, or injury of pets while traveling by air, equal to the three reports filed in April 2012, but up from the one report filed in March 2013.  April’s incidents involved two pet deaths and one pet injury.

Complaints About Airline Service

In April, the Department received 1,086 complaints about airline service from consumers, up 1.8 percent from the 1,067 complaints filed in April 2012, and up 15.2 percent from the 943 received in March 2013.

Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers

The report also contains a tabulation of complaints filed with DOT in April against airlines regarding the treatment of passengers with disabilities.  The Department received a total of 61 disability-related complaints in April, down from the total of 65 complaints filed in April 2012, but up from the total of 42 complaints received in March 2013.

Complaints About Discrimination

In April, the Department received six complaints alleging discrimination by airlines due to factors other than disability – such as race, religion, national origin, or sex – down from both the total of 14 recorded in April 2012 and the seven recorded in March 2013.

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 World Wide Web site at  It is available in “pdf” and Microsoft Word format.


April 2013

Based on Data Filed with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics by the 16 Reporting Carriers and Tarmac Data Filed by All Carriers


     77.3 percent on-time arrivals

Highest On-Time Arrival Rates

  1. Hawaiian Airlines – 93.0 percent
  2. Alaska Airlines – 86.8 percent
  3. Delta Air Lines – 85.6 percent

Lowest On-Time Arrival Rates 

  1. American Eagle Airlines – 66.9 percent
  2. Frontier Airlines – 68.6 percent
  3. ExpressJet Airlines – 71.0 percent

Domestic Flights with Longest Tarmac Delays Exceeding Three Hours

  1. Delta Air Lines flight 1485 from New York LaGuardia to Orlando, Fla., 4/19/13 – delayed on tarmac 183 minutes
  2. United Airlines flight 1523 from Pittsburgh to Denver, 4/8/13 – delayed on tarmac 182 minutes

There were only two domestic tarmac delays of more than three hours in April

International Flights with Longest Tarmac Delays Exceeding Four Hours

There were no International flights in April with tarmac delays exceeding four hours.

Highest Rates of Canceled Flights

  1. American Eagle Airlines – 5.3 percent
  2. Pinnacle Airlines – 3.3 percent
  3. ExpressJet Airlines – 3.2 percent

Lowest Rates of Canceled Flights

  1. Virgin America – 0.0 percent
  2. Delta Air Lines – 0.1 percent
  3. Hawaiian Airlines – 0.2 percent