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Flight cancellations at all-time lows, says DOT

Staff Writer |
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s monthly Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) released states that reporting carriers canceled 0.3 percent of their scheduled domestic flights in September 2016.

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This is the lowest for any of the 261 months with comparable records since January 1995, below the previous low of 0.4 percent in September 2015. The cancellation rate in August 2016 was 1.4 percent.

The ATCR also introduces data about discrimination complaints that the Department has received.

The Department is making this data available for the first time to provide more transparency regarding the number of complaints that its Aviation Consumer Protection Division receives in each of the protected classes of race, ancestry, national origin, color, religion, and sex.

This comes as a result of concerns about alleged discrimination of passengers and an increase in the number of complaints filed.

From January to September 2016, the Aviation Consumer Protection Division received 67 complaints from consumers alleging discrimination by airlines – 52 complaints regarding race, eight complaints regarding national origin, one complaint regarding color, two complaints regarding religion, and four complaints regarding sex.

This is an increase from the 49 complaints alleging discrimination received during the first nine months of 2015. In September 2016 alone, the Division received six complaints alleging discrimination – three complaints regarding race, two complaints regarding national origin, and one complaint regarding religion.

This is a decrease from both the total of eight recorded in September 2015 and the 15 recorded in August 2016. All complaints alleging discrimination are investigated to determine if there has been a violation(s) of the passenger’s civil rights.

The consumer report also includes data on on-time performance, tarmac delays, 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 a tally of aviation service complaints filed with DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division by consumers regarding a range of issues such as flight problems, baggage, reservation and ticketing, refunds, customer service, and disability.

The report also includes statistics on mishandled baggage reports filed by consumers with the reporting carriers, data on oversales, and information about the total number of animals that died, were injured, or were lost during air transport in September, as filed by the air carriers with the Aviation Consumer Protection Division.

The reporting carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 85.5 percent in September 2016, down from the 86.5 percent on-time rate in September 2015, but up from the 77.6 percent mark in August 2016.

In September, airlines reported no tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights and no tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights.

At the end of September, there was one flight that was chronically delayed – more than 30 minutes late more than 50 percent of the time – for two consecutive months.

There were no chronically delayed flights for three consecutive months or more. A list of flights that were chronically delayed for a single month is available from BTS.

In September, the carriers filing on-time performance data reported that 14.52 percent of their flights were delayed – 4.82 percent of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 6.35 percent in August; 4.69 percent by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 7.65 percent in August; and 4.05 percent by factors within the airline’s control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 6.04 percent in August.

Flights were delayed – 0.43 percent by extreme weather, compared to 0.67 percent in August; and 0.02 percent for security reasons, compared to 0.04 percent in August. In addition, 0.33 percent of flights were canceled and 0.18 percent were diverted.

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.

BTS uses the data collected from airlines to determine the percentage of late flights delayed by weather, which includes those reported in the categories of extreme weather, late-arriving aircraft, and National Aviation System delays.

In September, 29.25 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, up from 27.84 percent in September 2015, but down from 33.80 percent in August 2016.


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