Detailed Justification for the Airline Transportation Statistics Program

Detailed Justification for the Airline Transportation Statistics Program

What Do I Need To Know Before Reading This Justification?

The Airline Transportation Statistics Program provides comprehensive data and analysis to support U.S. DOT policies, programs, and regulations regarding the airline industry. Air transportation plays a critical role in enhancing the economic competitiveness of the nation and it is the data provided by the Airline Transportation Statistics Program that enables the U.S. DOT to make decisions that are well informed.

  • New USDOT rulemakings have expanded the types of on-time performance data that large airlines must report, including tarmac delay times.
  • Assuming the June 8, 2010, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking entitled Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections is adopted and final in 2011 (becoming effective in 2012); additional resources are needed for processing additional on-time data that would be submitted by additional carriers.
  • Recent accomplishments include the initiation of a new collection of tarmac time data and its dissemination through the Air Travel Consumer Report and BTS website.
  • Funding for this program is provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through an interagency agreement.

Number of Large Carrier Flights with Tarmac Delays of More than Three Hours, by Month

Text Version

Tarmac Times of 3 Hours or Longer

What is the Request and What Will We Get for the Funds?

FY 2012 Airline Transportation Statistics Program
Budget Request

Program Activity FY 2010 Actual FY 2012 Request ChangeFY 2010-2012
Airline Transportation Statistics Program [4,000] [5,000] [1,000]
Total1 [$4,000] [$5,000] [$1,000]

1 The total funding includes salaries and administrative expenses and contract program.

Key Actions:

  • Maintain national airline data system: collect and disseminate airline financial, traffic, performance, and operational data from more than 100 U.S. airlines.
  • Initiate electronic filing: standardized electronic submission of data from the air carriers and the subsequent processing of the data in a centralized system that automates previous manual processes. If the USDOT expands current tarmac delay reporting requirements to all carriers, more resources for data collection and processing will be required.
  • New IT system: convert existing legacy system into unified information system to enhance timeliness and data quality.
  • Training: Instruct airlines on new data reporting requirements and processes.

Key Outputs:

  • Faster, more accurate standardized data collection, eliminating manual data entry errors.
  • Scheduled release of comprehensive on-line monthly, quarterly, and annual data on the operations of the airline industry.

Key Outcomes:

  • Electronic data filing will provide USDOT officials, other decision-makers and stakeholders with more timely and accurate data for regulatory actions.
  • Data form the basis for a greater understanding of the airline industry, which can shape decisions on safety, economic competitiveness, and improved operations.
  • Electronic reporting will reduce reporting burden on airlines.

What Is This Program?

Strategic Goal: Safety, economic competitiveness, livable communities, environmental sustainability, state of good repair, and organizational excellence.

Purpose/Beneficiaries: The comprehensive program data necessary for consumer protection and enforcement activities, a major Secretarial priority, and for aviation policy decision making.

Partners: Stakeholders include:

  • Decision-makers: The RITA Office of Airline Information (OAI) makes data available which provide policy-makers with robust, accurate data upon which to base decisions.
  • USDOT Users:
      a) USDOT's Office of the General Counsel, Enforcement and Proceedings uses the data to monitor airline compliance with consumer protection regulations, and collaborates on data dissemination through the Air Travel Consumer Report and other vehicles; and
      b) The U.S. DOT Office of Aviation of International Affairs (OST-X) Office of Aviation Analysis uses the data to monitor and evaluate air carrier performance, economic fitness and competitiveness, and the Essential Air Service (EAS) program.
      c) The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) uses the airline data to administer safety and airport improvement programs. The air carrier industry provides the data to BTS as required by regulation.
  • Air travel consumer groups, media outlets and other stakeholders use BTS data to monitor and report on airline performance.
  • State and local governments and regional airport authorities use BTS airline data to make strategic investment decisions.
  • Airlines, consulting firms, and other entities in aviation use BTS airline data to help better align air transportation services with customer needs.

Description: The program collects and disseminates airline data related to on-time flights and other consumer-related issues, domestic and international passenger and freight traffic, passenger ticket information, and airline financial, fuel cost and consumption, and employment information. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) collects data from 130 U.S. airlines and foreign carrier operations to and from the U.S. Annually, BTS collects more than 8,000 data reports from U.S. and foreign carriers. These data are reported by the air carriers as required by regulation.

Base Budget: The base budget is $4M; funding is provided by the FAA through an interagency agreement.

Prior Year Accomplishments:

  • BTS implemented a data collection on tarmac delay and flight cancellations as required under new rulemaking to provide more detailed data on flight performance to air travel customers.
  • Monthly, quarterly and annual airline financial, employment, and fuel cost and consumption data used to gauge the strength of the industry and individual airlines;
  • Monthly air traffic reports on passenger enplanements, flights, freight and mail that signal how the airline system is operating;
  • Monthly performance data that measures flight delays and cancellations, causes, bumpings and mishandled baggage reports; and
  • Quarterly ticket data used to track airline fares and itineraries.

Why Is This Particular Program Necessary?

The program is the sole source of the airline operations data required by federal statute and regulation and essential for USDOT policy making, Congress, the airline industry and the traveling public. Without this funding:

USDOT agencies and Congress would not have the data necessary to provide oversight and make informed policy decisions regarding the airline industry, including operational safety, and its impact on the economy and traveling public;

The airline industry would lose the ability to schedule and set ticket prices based on objective, industry-wide airline data, with potential industry cost impacts since no private sector entity has the authority to collect industry-wide airline data; and

The public would lose access to consumer information possibly used to make informed travel decisions such as airline on-time performance.

How Do You Know The Program Works?

Effectiveness Measures: The collection and reporting of airline on-time performance data, including its tarmac delay data, are key components of Secretary LaHood's successful efforts to ensure consumers have available the information necessary to make informed decisions about their travel, and to provide airlines an incentive to reduce the inconvenience and added expense to passengers that results from flight delays.  The data also provide USDOT and stakeholders important information on the prevalence of the issue to better inform decision-making.

USDOT enforcement relies on data to enforce rules on tarmac times, chronically delayed and overbooked flights, and the Air Travel Consumer Report. Airline data are the most requested category on the BTS website with more than 10,000 requests per month. Industry representatives use the data for their own analyses and maintain links to the BTS webpage.BTS also receives information on customer satisfaction from the American Customer Satisfaction Index. BTS tracks air travel customers registered on social media networks such as Twitter. GAOrelied heavily on BTS airline statistics for their study of airplane delays and study of ancillary revenues. (See GAO-10-542 National Airspace System: Setting On-Time Performance Targets at Congested Airports Could Help Focus FAA Actions.)

Research: Customer outreach; American Customer Satisfaction Index; data requests; and downloads from RITA web pages and stakeholder feedback.

Efficient: Federal statute and regulation require this data collection program. A key measure of efficiency for the air transportation statistics program is the timeliness with which BTS releases the air carrier data (passenger, flights, freight) to the public, typically within 30 days. On-time data are released within 15 days of carrier submission.

Why Do We Want/Need to fund The Program At the Requested Level?

Funding Options: To achieve a` higher level of performance and usability from the airline data program; $5M is required for FY 2012. The increase of $1M over the FY 2010 funding level will support data modernization and related efforts, starting with an information systems requirements analysis that will define what will be needed in the future for development and implementation of the modernized system.

History/outyear needs: FY 2010 $4M; FY 2012 $5M.