Transport Airlines

Airlines’ on-time numbers improve in November as carriers tackle crew and maintenance issues

@denschaal

Jan 11, 2013 7:24 am

Skift Take

United Airlines’ operational issues were still spurring a lot of complaint letters to the DOT in November.

— Dennis Schaal

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Delta and British Airways may grab some headlines because they each had one very lengthy tarmac delay in November, but one less sexy finding from the DOT’s just-released Air Travel Consumer Report is that U.S. carriers got a better handle on maintenance or crew problems as a cause of flight delays during the month.

American Airlines’ resolution of its pilots and loose-seats problems may have fueled some of the improvement.

The 15 U.S. carriers that report their numbers to the DOT achieved an 85.7% on-time arrival rate in November, up from 80.2% in October, and also slightly up from 85.3% in November 2011.

Flights delayed caused by factors within the airlines’ control, including maintenance or crew problems, fell from 4.97% in October to 4.27% in November, the DOT report states.

American Airlines pilots had rejected a first contract proposal in early August, and that led to a rash of flight delays in September and into October before the two sides returned to the bargaining table, and ultimately reached an agreement. Aircraft seats that rocked and rolled, leading to the grounding of some aircraft during October, didn’t help matters, either.

The percentage of American Airlines flights delayed because of maintenance and crew issues has steadily decreased, according to the DOT’s reports over the last three months. The percentages for American were:

  • September 2012: 13.5%
  • October 2012: 9.62%
  • November 2012: 7.43%
Highs and Lows
The airlines with the highest on-time arrival rates during November were:
  • Hawaiian: 94.1%
  • AirTran: 91.3%
  • Delta: 90.6%
Carriers with the lowest on-time arrival rates during November were:
  • American Airlines: 79.6%
  • JetBlue: 81.9%
  • Frontier: 82.1%
Delta and British Airways

Delta and British Airways were singled out in the January report, which covers November, for tarmac-delay incidents, and the DOT is investigating the two occurrences.

Delta flight 95 from JFK to Atlanta on November 7 was delayed on the tarmac for 185 minutes, the DOT states. British Airways flight 184 from Newark to London Healthrow the same day sat on the tarmac for 334 minutes, the DOT states.

Both delays were impacted by a snowstorm.

DOT regulations set domestic flight limits of three hours and international flights of four hours before airlines are required to give passengers the option to deplane, although certain exceptions are allowed.

United Airlines again

Top Complaint Airlines: United topped the list again [see Table 6 in embedded report] as the most-complained about airline with 162 complaints sent to the DOT in November, and it acheived the highest rate of complaints per 100,000 emplanments (2.33). In contrast, Southwest attracted 15 complaints and had the lowest rate (0.16) of complaints per emplanment.

Overall, The DOT received 688 complaints against U.S. airlines in November 2012, and that was a 6.8% increase from November 2011.

Other highlights

Cancellations: Just 1% of domestic flights were cancelled in November 2012, which was much better than the 2.8% mark of October 2012, but higher than the 0.7% rate in November 2011.

Mishandled baggage: The 2.64 reports of mishandled bags per 1,000 passengers in November 2012 represented an improvement from 2.83 in October 2012, and 2.66 in November 2011.

Below is the full January 2013 DOT Air Travel Consumer Report:

Download (PDF, 766KB)

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