US airlines score on-time record

The largest US airlines scored record marks during the first half of this year for on-time performance, the fewest long tarmac delays, and the lowest rates of canceled flights.

According to the Air Travel Consumer Report issued today by the US Department of Transportation, the 15 largest US airlines posted an 83.7 per cent on-time arrival rate during the first six months of 2012, the highest mark for any January-June period in the 18 years the Department has collected comparable data.

The previous high was 82.8 per cent in January-June 2003. The 1.1 per cent cancellation rate for the six-month period also was the lowest rate for the past 18 years, with the previous low being the 1.3 per cent mark set in January-June 2002.

In addition, there were only four tarmac delays longer than three hours on US domestic flights between January and June this year. This follows the Department’s rule, which took effect in April 2011, setting a three-hour limit for aircraft carrying passengers on domestic flights to sit on the tarmac. Exceptions to the time limits are allowed only for safety, security or air traffic control-related reasons.

There were a total of 35 tarmac delays for domestic flights between January and June in 2011, the first full year the domestic tarmac delay limit was in effect. In contrast, there were 586 tarmac delays of more than three hours between January and June of 2009, the year before the tarmac delay rule went into effect. Since August 2011, U.S. and foreign airlines operating international flights at U.S. airports have been subject to a four-hour tarmac delay limit.

“Our new airline consumer rules and our vigorous oversight of the aviation industry are holding airlines accountable to their customers,” US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “We will continue to help make air travel as hassle-free as possible.”

Today’s report follows Tuesday’s second meeting of the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection. The committee, established earlier this year to advise the Secretary on measures to protect the rights of air travelers, will help the Department continue to improve the air travel experience.

In addition to the tarmac delay rule, the Department has issued other rulemakings during the Obama Administration that have encouraged carriers to improve their on-time performance. These include a rule banning the continued operation of chronically delayed flights and a requirement that airlines post on their websites the on-time performance of their flights.

The report also includes data filed with the Department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) by the reporting carriers on chronically delayed flights and the causes of flight delays.

The reporting carriers posted an on-time arrival rate in June of 80.7 percent, an improvement over June 2011’s 76.9 per cent mark but down from May 2012’s 83.4 per cent.

The reporting carriers canceled 1.1 percent of their scheduled domestic flights in June, down from the 1.8 per cent cancellation rate posted in June 2011 but up from May 2012’s cancellation rate of 0.9 per cent.

At the end of June, there were 10 flights that were 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 June, the carriers filing on-time performance data reported that 4.82 per cent of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 4.75 per cent in May; 6.98 per cent by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 5.56 per cent in May; 5.62 per cent by factors within the airline’s control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 4.59 per cent in May; 0.50 per cent by extreme weather, compared to 0.58 per cent in May; and 0.04 per cent for security reasons, compared to 0.03 percent in May. 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 June, 29.98 per cent of late flights were delayed by weather, down 18.31 per cent from June 2011, when 36.70 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, and down 22.19 percent from May when 38.53 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

Posted in Airlines, Meteorology, News, Reports

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