General

You are here

About the New Tarmac Time Data

(Updated November 17, 2011)

Tarmac Times Home Page

What tarmac data are now being collected?
All airlines that offer service in the United States and operate at least one aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats now must report lengthy tarmac times. This requirement covers all domestic flights and the U.S. airport beginning or end of international flights to and from the U.S. This requirement was effective for data beginning Aug. 23, 2011.

How do the current reports differ from previous reports?
From January 1995 through September 2008, the only tarmac times reported were the times for taxi-out (gate departure to wheels-off) and taxi-in  (wheels-on to gate arrival) that airlines required to report on-time data to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported for all their scheduled service domestic flights. Beginning October 2008, tarmac time reporting was expanded to include canceled and diverted flights. BTS also clarified the reporting of multiple gate departures. Airlines required to report on-time data to BTS reported tarmac times for all scheduled service domestic flights that were canceled or diverted. No reports were required on other flights operated by those airlines or on any flights operated by other airlines.

What data is being reported that wasn’t reported previously?
U.S. airlines that report on-time data for scheduled domestic service must report on flights for any domestic charter flight or any international scheduled service or charter flight that is on the tarmac at any U.S. airport for more than three hours. U.S. airlines that do not report on-time data but operate at least one aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats must report on any scheduled service or charter flight that is on the tarmac at any U.S. airport for more than three hours. Foreign airlines must report on any scheduled service or charter flight that is on the tarmac at any U.S. airport for more than three hours. These airlines are not required to report any additional data about their operations other than the flights with three-hour tarmac times although the airlines will continue to report monthly air traffic data.

Which carriers report which data?
Airlines that report 1 percent of the total of all scheduled service domestic passenger revenue of all U.S. airlines are required to report on-time data. These reports consist of detailed flight data for all scheduled service domestic passenger flights. BTS calculates tarmac times from these reports. The list of reporting airlines can be found here. These airlines will now be required to report on domestic charter and international scheduled service and charter flights with three-hour tarmac times at U.S. airports. They are not required to report on domestic charter and international scheduled service and charter flights that do not have three-hour tarmac times.  In addition, all U.S. and foreign airlines operating at least one aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats must report lengthy tarmac delays at U.S. airports. They are required to report on domestic and international scheduled service and charter flights with three-hour tarmac times of more than three hours at U.S. airports. They are not required to report on any flights that do not have three-hour tarmac times.

Are there specific reporting requirements for reporting of tarmac times and on-time data?
See BTS Reporting Directive 303A issued on Aug, 10, 2011.

Explanation of the reporting requirements starting in October 2008
BTS required airlines that report on-time data to submit tarmac time data in three additional categories beginning with flights operated in October 2008.  They are:

  1. Flights that are subsequently canceled.  These are flights that leave the gate and then return to the gate before being canceled.  Flights that leave the gate, then take-off but then return to the gate at the origin airport are also included.
  2. Diverted flights.  These are flights that are diverted to an alternative airport while airborne.  Flights that end service at the diversion airport and flights that continue to the scheduled destination are included in this category.
  3. Multiple gate departures.  These are flights that leave the gate, return to the gate, and depart the gate again before taking off.  There may be one or more returns and departures.

Why are these reports required?
BTS is seeking to close a gap in the data on the length of time passengers spend on planes on tarmacs.  BTS data since 1995 includes taxi-out times (gate departure to wheels-off) and taxi-in times (wheels-on to gate arrival).  The data for flights that are subsequently canceled, that are diverted to alternative airports or have multiple gate departures will provide a more complete picture of tarmac times.

What airlines are required to file reports?
The new tarmac reports are required from the same airlines that report monthly on-time data.  These are airlines with 1 percent of total domestic scheduled-service passenger revenue.  The list of reporting airlines can be found here: https://www.bts.gov/topics/airlines-and-airports

For canceled flights, what data is reported?
For flights that leave the gate and are subsequently canceled, airlines will report the total time away from the gate and the single longest time away from the gate.  They will report these times for flights that leave the gate and then return as well as for flights that take-off and then return to the gate at the origin airport before being canceled.  Previously, BTS received no data on canceled flights other than the report that they were canceled.

For diverted flights, what data is reported?
For flights that are airborne but are then diverted to an alternative airport, airlines will report the name of the diversion airport, the total time on the tarmac at the diversion airport and the longest single time on the tarmac.  The same data will be reported for any additional diversion airports.  Airlines will also report whether the flight reached its scheduled destination and the arrival time.  BTS will not combine the arrival times at the scheduled destination for diverted flights will not be compiled with existing on-time arrival delays to maintain data comparability over time.  Previously, BTS received data on flights until they were diverted but the data stream ended once they were diverted.

For multiple gate departures, what data is reported?
For flights that leave the gate, then return and then depart again, airlines will report the total time away from the gate and the longest single time away from the gate.  The final departure time will be used as departure time for on-time calculations.  Previously, airlines reported gate departure times inconsistently.  Some reported the first departure as the departure time while others reported the final departure time. 

How is tarmac time calculated?
The tarmac time is any time away from the terminal while passengers are required to be on the aircraft.  It should be calculated from the time the aircraft door is locked or unlocked.

Updated: Monday, November 27, 2017