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Air Travel Consumer Report: November 2023 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 November 2023 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 remains committed to ensuring airline passengers are treated fairly and flights operate as scheduled. For the first 11 months of 2023, 1.4% of flights were canceled, far below the 2.5% cancellation rate for the first 11 months of 2022 and the 2.0% cancellation rate for first 11 months of pre-pandemic 2019.  

DOT uses the data from the ATCR, consumer complaints, and other information it secures from the airlines to inform its enforcement activities and the adequacy of existing rules.

In 2023, DOT issued the largest fines on airlines in the history of the consumer protection office while helping return more than $3 billion in refunds to travelers since the start of the pandemic. 

The Department is also enhancing consumer protections through rulemakings and other activities. 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 as part of the Department’s Airline Customer Service Dashboard. DOT expanded the user-friendly dashboard at FlightRights.Gov to highlight which airlines, if any, offer cash compensation, provide travel credits or vouchers, or award frequent flyer miles when they cause flight delays or cancellations. In May, DOT announced plans to launch a new rulemaking that would propose to make passenger compensation and amenities mandatory so that travelers are taken care of when airlines cause flight delays or cancellations, such as those resulting from staffing issues or mechanical problems.

Further, President Biden and Secretary Buttigieg have pressed airlines to commit to fee-free family seating. Before their urging, no airline committed to guaranteeing fee-free family seating. Now four airlines have committed to guaranteeing fee-free family seating, and DOT is pursuing a rulemaking that would require all airlines to do so. Secretary Buttigieg also submitted to Congress a legislative proposal to require that airlines provide fee-free family seating.

To further assist consumers in assessing airline family seating commitments, in March 2023, DOT rolled out a new family seating dashboard that highlights the airlines that guarantee fee-free family seating, and those that do not, making it easier for parents to avoid paying junk fees to sit with their children when they fly.

Flight Operations

The 598,987 flights operated in November 2023 were 106.76% of the 561,067 flights operated in November 2022. Operated flights in November 2023 were up 6.76% year-over-year from the 561,067 flights operated in November 2022 and down 5.43% month-over-month from 633,349 flights operated in October 2023. 

In November 2023, the 10 marketing network carriers reported 599,814 scheduled domestic flights, 827 (0.1%) of which were canceled. In October 2023, airlines scheduled 635,538 domestic flights, of which 2,189 (0.3%) were canceled. In November 2022, airlines scheduled 567,507 domestic flights, of which 6,440 (1.1%) were canceled.

November 2023 On-Time Arrival

In November 2023, reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 86.3%, up from both 84.1% in October 2023 and 80.0% in November 2022. The year-to-date on-time arrival rate for 2023 is 77.8%.

Highest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates November 2023 (ATCR Table 1)

  1. Delta Airlines Network – 91.2%
  2. United Airlines Network – 88.2%
  3. American Airlines Network – 86.1% 

Lowest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates November 2023 (ATCR Table 1)

  1. Spirit Airlines – 75.6% 
  2. JetBlue Airways – 77.0% 
  3. Frontier Airlines – 79.7%

November 2023 Flight Cancellations

In November 2023, reporting marketing carriers canceled 0.1% of their scheduled domestic flights, lower than both the rate of 0.3% in October 2023 and the rate of 1.1% in November 2022. The year-to-date cancellation rate for 2023 is 1.4%.

Lowest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights November 2023 (ATCR Table 6)

  1. Delta Air Lines Network – 0.0%*  
  2. American Airlines Network – 0.1%   
  3. Allegiant Airlines – 0.1% 

*Delta canceled 11 flights in November.
 
Highest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights November 2023 (ATCR Table 6)

  1. Hawaiian Airlines – 1.0%    
  2. Alaska Airlines Network – 0.5%    
  3. Spirit Airlines – 0.4%    

Complaints About Airline Service

The Department continues to receive a high volume of air travel service complaints against airlines and ticket agents and its Office of Aviation Consumer Protection is processing them. The release of consumer complaint data in the ATCR has been delayed primarily because of the time needed to review and process these consumer complaints. The Department has been examining how best to review and process the consumer complaints received to avoid reporting delays as it is increasingly clear that consumer complaints are not returning to pre-pandemic levels. This review led the Department to seek a Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) investment to help modernize OACP’s outdated consumer complaint and case tracking application system that assists thousands of consumers each year. On September 29, 2023, the TMF announced that it was awarding DOT an $8 million grant towards this effort.

Tarmac Delays

In November 2023, airlines reported two tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to six tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights reported in October 2023. In November 2023, airlines reported one tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, compared to zero tarmac delays reported in October 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 November 2023, reporting marketing carriers handled 39.1 million bags and posted a mishandled baggage rate of 0.39%, lower than both the rate of 0.44% in October 2023 and the rate of 0.51% in November 2022.

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 November 2023, reporting marketing carriers reported checking 70,982 wheelchairs and scooters and mishandling 892 for a rate of 1.26% mishandled wheelchairs and scooters, lower than both the rate of 1.33% mishandled in October 2023 and the rate of 1.34% mishandled in November 2022.

To address many of the significant barriers and challenges experienced by passengers who use wheelchairs, the Department has initiated a rulemaking proposing 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. This rulemaking is currently under review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

Bumping/Oversales

Bumping/oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly.
For the third quarter of 2023, the 10 U.S. reporting marketing carriers posted an involuntary denied boarding, or bumping, rate of 0.35 per 10,000 passengers, lower than the rate of 0.36 in the second quarter of 2023 and higher than the rate of 0.22 in the third quarter of 2022.

Incidents Involving Animals

In November 2023, carriers reported one incident involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, down from both the two reports filed in October 2023 and equal to the one report filed in November 2022.

Consumers may file air travel consumer or civil rights complaints online at http://airconsumer.dot.gov/escomplaint/ConsumerForm.cfm or by voicemail at (202) 366-2220, or they may mail a complaint to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division, U.S. Department of Transportation, C-75, 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-november-2023-numbers

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