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Air Travel Consumer Report: January 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 January 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. 

DOT expects that airlines will operate flights as scheduled and that when they do not, airlines will provide consumers the services consumers have been promised when a flight is canceled 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.

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, mandating 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 future passengers affected by significant delays and cancellations. DOT has helped return more than $3 billion in refunds to travelers since the pandemic began.

Flight Operations

The 560,352 flights operated in January 2024 were 99.56% of the 562,845 flights operated in January 2023. Operated flights in January 2024 were down 0.44% year-over-year from the 562,845 flights operated in January 2023 and down 7.18% month-over-month from 603,756 flights operated in December 2023. 

In January 2024, the 10 marketing network carriers reported 582,425 scheduled domestic flights, 22,073 (3.8%) of which were canceled. In December 2023, airlines scheduled 606,218 domestic flights, 2,462 (1.3%) of which were canceled. In January 2023, airlines scheduled 573,877 domestic flights, 11,032 (1.9%) of which were canceled.

On January 6, 2024, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered the grounding of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft with a mid-cabin door plug installed operated by U.S. airlines or in U.S. territory. On January 24, 2024, FAA cleared all such aircraft to return to service after each aircraft operator successfully completed a new inspection process approved by the FAA. Alaska Airlines and United Airlines have informed the DOT that the grounding of the 737 MAX9 aircraft with the mid-cabin door plug installed has impacted their on-time statistics during this reporting period.

January 2024 On-Time Arrival

In January 2024, reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 72.8%, down from both 83.9% in December 2023 and from 76.2% in January 2023.

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

  1. Delta Airlines Network – 77.8%
  2. Allegiant Air – 75.6%
  3. Southwest Airlines – 73.9% 

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

  1. Alaska Airlines Network – 64.7%
  2. JetBlue Airways – 69.5%
  3. American Airlines Network – 70.5%

January 2024 Flight Cancellations

In January 2024, reporting marketing carriers canceled 3.8% of their scheduled domestic flights, higher than both the rate of 0.4% in December 2023 and the rate of 1.9% in January 2023. 

Lowest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights January 2024 (ATCR Table 6)

  1. Hawaiian Airlines – 1.5%  
  2. Spirit Airlines – 1.5%   
  3. JetBlue Airways – 1.7%    

Highest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights January 2024 (ATCR Table 6)

  1. Alaska Airlines Network – 11.9%    
  2. United Airlines Network – 6.9%    
  3. Southwest Airlines – 3.1%    

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 spring.

Tarmac Delays

In January 2024, airlines reported 71 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to five tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights reported in December 2023. In January 2024, airlines reported six tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, compared to zero tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights reported in December 2023. 

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 January 2024, reporting marketing carriers handled 37.4 million bags and posted a mishandled baggage rate of 0.75%, higher than both the rate of 0.50% in December 2023 and the rate of 0.73% in January 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 January 2024, reporting marketing carriers reported checking 56,659 wheelchairs and scooters and mishandling 836 for a rate of 1.48% mishandled wheelchairs and scooters, higher than the rate of 1.39% mishandled in December 2023 and lower than the rate of 1.47% mishandled in January 2023.

As described earlier, in February 2024, the Department announced its proposal to strengthen its rule implementing the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) to address the serious problems that individuals with disabilities using wheelchairs and scooters face when traveling by air that impact their safety and dignity, including mishandled wheelchairs and scooters and improper transfers to and from aircraft seats, aisle chairs, and personal wheelchairs. The proposed rule would require that airlines meet strict standards in accommodating passengers with disabilities by setting new standards for prompt, safe, and dignified assistance, mandating enhanced training for airline employees and contractors who physically assist passengers with disabilities and handle passengers’ wheelchairs, and outlining actions that airlines must take to protect passengers when a wheelchair is damaged during transport. The proposed rule also clarifies that damaging or delaying the return of a wheelchair is an automatic violation of the ACAA.

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 January 2024, carriers reported zero incidents involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, equal to the zero reports filed in both December 2023 and in January 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-january-2024-numbers

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