November set US records for on time performance and baggage


A month before the Department of Transportation issued its Christmas directive setting out a three-hour limit on delays, US airlines were turning in record-breaking results for on-time operations and for baggage, making it the best report in the 15 years since data has been collected, according to the latest Air Travel Consumer Report issued yesterday. The baggage rate exceeded all statistics in the 22 years such data has been tallied.

The 19 reporting carriers posted an overall on-time arrival rate of 88.6% in November, higher than both Nov-2008’s 83.3% and Oct-2009’s 77.3%, according to information filed with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), a part of DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA).

Since comparable data were first collected in Jan-1995, the previous high on-time mark for reporting carriers was 88.0% in Sep-2002, just a year after 9/11 when the industry was still in recovery. 

In addition, the carriers reported mishandled baggage rate of 2.78 reports per 1,000 passengers in Nov-2009, an improvement over both Nov-2008’s rate of 3.75 and Oct-2009’s 3.48 rate.  The previous record low rate for mishandled baggage was September 2009’s 3.01 mark.


The consumer report includes BTS data on the number of domestic flights canceled by the reporting carriers.  In Nov-2009, the carriers canceled 0.5% of their scheduled domestic flights, a lower rate than both the 0.8% cancellation rate of Nov-2008 and the 1.0% rate posted in Oct-2009. 

Tarmac delays

In Nov-2009, the carriers filing on-time performance data reported that .00079 percent of their scheduled flights had tarmac delays of three hours or more, down from .0013 in Nov-2008 and .002 percent in Oct-2009.  There were no flights with tarmac delays of four hours or more in November.  It is these statistics, the industry cites when it suggests passenger rights legislation or rules are unnecessary.

Causes of flight delays

In Nov-2009, the carriers filing on-time performance data reported that 3.91% of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 8.52% in Oct-2009; 3.23% by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 7.20% in Oct-2009; 3.39% by factors within the airline’s control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 5.26% in Oct-2009; 0.20% by extreme weather, compared to 0.52% in Oct-2009; and 0.01% for security reasons, compared to 0.03% in Oct-2009. 

In Nov-2009, 33.43% of late flights were delayed by weather, down from Nov-2008 when 42.08% of late flights were delayed by weather, and down from Oct-2009 when 41.14% of late flights were delayed by weather.

Complaints about airline service

In November, the Department received 552 complaints about airline service from consumers, up 3.6% from the 533 complaints filed in Nov-2008 but 38.4% fewer than the total of 896 received in Oct-2009. 

Complaints about treatment of disabled passengers

The report also contains a tabulation of complaints filed with DOT in November against airlines regarding the treatment of passengers with disabilities.  The Department received a total of 36 disability-related complaints in November, up from the 29 complaints filed in November 2008 but fewer than the total of 52 received in October 2009. 

Complaints about discrimination

In November, the Department received 11 complaints alleging discrimination by airlines due to factors other than disability – such as race, religion, national origin or sex – up from both the total of seven recorded in Nov-2008 and 10 received in Oct-2009.


Highest On-Time Arrival Rates

Lowest On-Time Arrival Rates 

Most Frequently Delayed Flights

  • There were no regularly scheduled flights that arrived late 80 percent of the time or more in November.

Flights with Longest Tarmac Delays

  • There were no flights with tarmac delays of four hours or more in November. 

Highest Rates of Canceled Flights

Lowest Rates of Canceled Flights

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