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Air Travel Consumer Report: February 2024 Numbers

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today released its Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) on airline operational data compiled for the month of February 2024 for on-time performance, mishandled baggage, and mishandled wheelchairs and scooters. The ATCR is designed to assist consumers with information on the quality of services provided by airlines. 

For February 2024, 0.6% of flights were cancelled, far lower than the 1.8% cancellation rate for February 2023 and the 3.2% cancellation rate for pre-pandemic February 2019.  

DOT expects that airlines will operate flights as scheduled and that when they do not, airlines will provide consumers the services promised when a flight is cancelled or delayed because of an airline issue. After a two-year DOT push to improve the passenger experience, the 10 largest airlines now guarantee meals and free rebooking on the same airline and nine guarantee hotel accommodations. Consumer-friendly information regarding airline commitments to their customers is available on the Department’s Airline Customer Service Dashboard at FlightRights.Gov. DOT also pushed airlines to provide fee-free family seating and rolled out a new family seating dashboard that highlights the airlines that guarantee fee-free family seating, and those of the 10 largest that do not, making it easier for parents to avoid paying junk fees to sit with their children when they fly.

DOT recently announced two final rules that require airlines to provide automatic cash refunds to passengers when owed and protect consumers from costly surprise airline fees. These rules will significantly expand consumer protections in air travel, provide passengers an easier pathway to refunds when owed, and save consumers more than half a billion dollars every year in hidden and surprise junk fees.

In addition, DOT is improving transportation for individuals with disabilities. In July 2023, DOT finalized a rule which requires airlines to make lavatories on new, single-aisle aircraft more accessible. Then, in February 2024, DOT issued a proposal to address other barriers that Americans who use a wheelchair encounter when it comes to air travel by, among other things, proposing to mandate enhanced training for airline employees and contractors who physically assist passenger with disabilities and handle passengers’ wheelchairs.

Further, when necessary, DOT takes enforcement action against airlines and ticket agents that fail to comply with the Department’s aviation consumer protection requirements. In 2023, DOT issued the largest fines in the history of the consumer protection office. This includes a $140 million penalty against Southwest Airlines for failing passengers during the 2022 holiday meltdown. That penalty, which was in addition to over $600 million DOT already ensured was refunded by Southwest to passengers, requires Southwest to establish a $90 million compensation system for passengers affected by significant delays and cancellations beginning April 30, 2024.  Additionally, DOT has helped return more than $3 billion in refunds to travelers since the pandemic began.

In April, DOT announced the launch of the bipartisan Airline Passenger Protection Partnership with 18 state attorneys general to investigate airlines and ticket agents and hold them accountable when they violate aviation consumer protection laws. The partnership significantly expands the Department’s oversight capacity by establishing a new fast-track system prioritizing misconduct cases from state attorneys general who uncover unfair or deceptive airline practices. Through the partnership, DOT will provide state attorneys general with access to the federal complaint database and help ensure that airlines cooperate with state investigations.

Flight Operations

The 549,439 flights operated in February 2024 were 104.35% of the 526,543 flights operated in February 2023. Operated flights in February 2024 were up 4.35% year-over-year from the 526,543 flights operated in February 2023 and down 1.95% month-over-month from 560,352 flights operated in January 2024. 

In February 2024, the 10 marketing network carriers reported 552,691 scheduled domestic flights, 3,252 (0.6%) of which were cancelled. In January 2024, airlines scheduled 582,425 domestic flights, 22,073 (3.8%) of which were cancelled. In February 2023, airlines scheduled 536,229 domestic flights, 9,686 (1.8%) of which were cancelled.

February 2024 On-Time Arrival

In February 2024, reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 83.7%, up from both 72.8% in January 2024 and 79.5% in February 2023. The year-to-date on-time arrival rate for 2024 is 78.1%.

Highest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates February 2024 (ATCR Table 1)

1.    Delta Air Lines Network – 88.4%
2.    American Airlines Network – 84.1%
3.    United Airlines Network – 83.2% 

Lowest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates February 2024 (ATCR Table 1)

1.    JetBlue Airways – 74.3%
2.    Spirit Airlines – 77.8%
3.    Frontier Airlines – 79.8%

February 2024 Flight Cancellations

In February 2024, reporting marketing carriers cancelled 0.6% of their scheduled domestic flights, lower than both the rate of 3.8% in January 2024 and the rate of 1.8% in February 2023. The year-to-date cancellation rate for 2024 is 2.2%.

Lowest Marketing Carrier Rates of Cancelled Flights February 2024 (ATCR Table 6)

1.    Allegiant Air – 0.1%  
2.    Frontier Airlines – 0.2%   
3.    American Airlines Network – 0.3%    
 
Highest Marketing Carrier Rates of Cancelled Flights February 2024 (ATCR Table 6)

1.    JetBlue Airways – 1.4%    
2.    Hawaiian Airlines – 1.1%    
3.    Alaska Airlines Network – 1.1%    

Complaints About Airline Service

The release of air travel service complaint data in the Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) has been delayed primarily because of the continued high volume of complaints against airlines and ticket agents received by the Office of Aviation Consumer Protection (OACP) and the time needed to review and process these consumer complaints. The Department is investing in modernizing its system for handling consumer complaints with the support of a Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) investment to improve the customer experience for the tens of thousands of consumers who use the system each year and enable OACP to more effectively engage in oversight of the airline industry. 

As DOT modernizes its system, given the continued high volume of air travel service complaints concerning airlines and ticket agents, DOT has revised how it processes consumer complaints received after June 1, 2023. From June 2023 until the date its system is modernized, DOT intends to revise the ATCR to display consumer submissions (complaints, inquiries, and opinions) as opposed to complaints for this period. The Department will continue to display civil rights complaints in the ATCR in a similar manner as before and anticipates publishing submission and civil rights complaint numbers in June 2024.

Tarmac Delays

In February 2024, airlines reported ten tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to 71 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights reported in January 2024. In February 2024, airlines reported two tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, compared to six tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights reported in January 2024. 

Airlines are required to have and adhere to assurances that they will not allow aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours for domestic flights and four hours for international flights without providing passengers the option to deplane, subject to exceptions related to safety, security, and Air Traffic Control related reasons. An exception also exists for departure delays if the airline begins to return the aircraft to a suitable disembarkation point to deplane passengers by those times.

The Department investigates extended tarmac delays.

Mishandled Baggage

In February 2024, reporting marketing carriers handled 36.1 million bags and posted a mishandled baggage rate of 0.48%, lower than both the rate of 0.75% in January 2024 and the rate of 0.61% in February 2023.

The Department began displaying the mishandled baggage data as a percentage (i.e., per 100 bags enplaned) in January 2022. This is consistent with the manner that the mishandled wheelchairs and scooters rate is calculated and displayed.  
 
In the prior three calendar year reports (2019 to 2021), the Department calculated the mishandled baggage rate based on the number of mishandled bags per 1,000 checked bags. 

Mishandled Wheelchairs and Scooters

In February 2024, reporting marketing carriers reported checking 54,929 wheelchairs and scooters and mishandling 716 for a rate of 1.30% mishandled wheelchairs and scooters, lower than both the rate of 1.48% mishandled in January 2024 and the rate of 1.40% mishandled in February 2023.

To address many of the significant barriers and challenges experienced by passengers who use wheelchairs, the Department has proposed a rulemaking that, if adopted after public comment would, among other actions, make it an automatic violation of the Department’s Air Carrier Access Act regulations for airlines to mishandle a passenger’s wheelchair. This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would also enhance training requirements for airline personnel who provide hands-on transfer assistance to passengers and handle wheelchairs. Interested parties may comment on this rulemaking by the docket number DOT-OST-2022-0144 at https://www.regulations.gov.

Bumping/Oversales

Bumping/oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly.
For the fourth quarter of 2023, the 10 U.S. reporting marketing carriers posted an involuntary denied boarding, or bumping, rate of 0.20 per 10,000 passengers, lower than both the rate of 0.35 in the third quarter of 2023 and the rate of 0.30 in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Incidents Involving Animals

As part of its IT modernization, DOT’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection (OACP) is improving the options for covered carriers to submit their monthly and annual Reports on Incidents Involving Animals During Air Transport. While the new system is being developed, OACP is permitting covered carriers to delay submission of reports on incidents involving animals during air transport. Annual data on such incidents will be published when DOT receives carriers’ complete submissions of the 2023 data. 

In February 2024, carriers reported 2 incidents involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, up from the zero reports filed in January 2024, but down from the four reports filed in February 2023.

Consumers may file air travel consumer or civil rights complaints online at  https://secure.dot.gov/air-travel-complaint, or they may mail a complaint to the Office of Aviation Consumer Protection, U.S. Department of Transportation, C-70, W96-432, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20590.

The ATCR and other aviation consumer matters of interest to the public can be found at https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer.

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Official news published at https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/air-travel-consumer-report-february-2024-numbers

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