Airline On-Time Statistics

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Air Travel Consumer Report: December 2018 Numbers

Release Number: 
DOT 12-19
Date: Wednesday, March 13, 2019

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today released its February 2019 Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) on marketing and reporting air carrier data compiled for the month of December 2018 and calendar year 2018.  The full consumer report and other aviation consumer matters of interest to the public can be found at http://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer.

For the first time, the report includes the number of wheelchairs and scooters checked and mishandled by the 12 reporting airlines.  From Dec. 4 through Dec. 31, these airlines reported checking 32,229 wheelchairs and scooters and mishandling 701, a rate of 2.18 percent mishandled.  See page 38 of the February 2019 Air Travel Consumer Report for mishandled wheelchair and scooter numbers by airline.

2018 On-Time Performance

For the full year 2018, marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 79.2 percent. 

Highest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates Jan-Dec 2018 (ATCR Table 1B)

  1. Hawaiian Airlines Network – 87.8 percent
  2. Delta Air Lines – 83.2 percent
  3. Alaska Airlines – 82.7 percent

Lowest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates Jan-Dec 2018 (ATCR Table 1B)

  1. Frontier Airlines – 69.4 percent
  2. JetBlue Airways – 71.0 percent
  3. Allegiant Airlines – 76.9 percent

For the full year 2018, reporting carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 79.4 percent, down from 80.2 percent in 2017. 

For 2018 annual on-time numbers by reporting carrier, see BTS Flight Delays at-a-Glance or TranStats database.

December On-Time Performance

In December 2018, marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 80.0 percent, up from the 79.3 percent on-time rate in November 2018.  On-time numbers for marketing carriers were not reported in previous years.

Highest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates December 2018 (ATCR Table 1)

  1. Hawaiian Airlines Network – 87.5 percent
  2. Delta Air Lines – 86.1 percent
  3. Spirit Airlines – 84.5 percent

Lowest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates December 2018 (ATCR Table 1)

  1. Frontier Airlines – 74.4 percent
  2. JetBlue Airways – 74.5 percent
  3. United Airlines Network – 77.6 percent

In December 2018, reporting carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 80.3 percent, up from the 79.7 percent on-time rate in November 2018 and equal to 80.3 percent in December 2017. 

Highest Reporting Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates December 2018  (ATCR Table 1A)

  1. Delta Air Lines – 89.1 percent
  2. Hawaiian Airlines – 88.4 percent
  3. Spirit Airlines – 84.5 percent

Lowest Reporting Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates December 2018  (ATCR Table 1A)

  1. ExpressJet Airlines – 70.3 percent
  2. Frontier Airlines – 74.4 percent
  3. JetBlue Airways – 74.5 percent

2018 Cancellations

For the full year 2018, marketing carriers canceled 1.7 percent of their scheduled domestic flights.

For 2018 annual cancellation numbers by marketing carrier, see BTS’ TranStats database.

For the full year 2018, reporting carriers canceled 1.6 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, a higher rate than 1.5 percent in 2017.

For 2018 annual cancellation numbers by reporting carrier, see BTS’ Flight Delays at-a-Glance or TranStats database.

December Cancellations

In December 2018, marketing carriers canceled 1.2 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, equal to the rate of 1.2 percent in November 2018.  Cancellation numbers for marketing carriers were not reported in previous years. 

Lowest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights December 2018 (ATCR Table 6)

  1. JetBlue Airways – 0.2 percent
  2. Delta Air Lines Network – 0.3 percent
  3. Spirit Airlines – 0.3 percent

Highest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights December 2018 (ATCR Table 6)

  1. American Airlines Network – 2.5 percent
  2. Alaska Airlines Network – 1.3 percent
  3. United Airlines Network – 1.1 percent

In December 2018, reporting carriers canceled 1.1 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, equal to both 1.1 percent in November 2018 and 1.1 percent in December 2017.

Lowest Reporting Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights December 2018 (ATCR Table 6A)

  1. Delta Air Lines – 0.1 percent
  2. Hawaiian Airlines – 0.1 percent
  3. United Airlines – 0.1 percent

Highest Reporting Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights December 2018 (ATCR Table 6A)

  1. ExpressJet Airlines – 4.5 percent
  2. PSA Airlines – 4.4 percent
  3. Mesa Airlines – 2.3 percent

Tarmac Delays

In 2018, airlines reported 202 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, an increase from the 193 such tarmac delays reported in 2017.  In 2018, airlines reported 61 tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, compared to 51 such tarmac delays reported in 2017.

In December 2018, airlines reported 19 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, fewer than the 21 such tarmac delays reported in November 2018, and fewer than the 96 tarmac delays reported in December 2017.  In December 2018, airlines reported no tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, compared to 12 such tarmac delays reported in November 2018 and 21 tarmac delays reported in December 2017.  Extended tarmac delays are investigated by the Department.

In December, 17 of the 19 domestic tarmac delays took place on flights that involved Dallas-Fort Worth Airport on Dec. 26 when there were thunderstorms and fog in that area.  An additional tarmac delay involved a flight diverted from Dallas Love Field on the same day.

December Domestic Flights with Longest Tarmac Delays Exceeding Three Hours (ATCR Table 8)

  1. American Airlines flight 242 from Atlanta to Dallas-Fort Worth, 12/26/18 – delayed 4 hours and 19 minutes on the tarmac at Dallas-Fort Worth
  2. American Airlines flight 249 from San Antonio, Texas, to Dallas-Fort Worth, 12/26/18 – delayed 4 hours and 18 minutes on the tarmac at Dallas-Fort Worth
  3. American Airlines flight 797 from Phoenix, Ariz, to Dallas-Fort Worth, 12/26/18 – delayed 4 hours and 9 minutes on the tarmac at Dallas-Fort Worth

December International Flights with Longest Tarmac Delays Exceeding Four Hours (ATCR Table 8A)

There were no international flights with tarmac times of more than four hours in December.

Mishandled Baggage

For January through November 2018, the reporting carriers posted a mishandled baggage rate of 2.78 per 1,000 passengers, a higher rate than 2.41 per 1,000 passengers during the same time period in 2017.  The methodology that airlines are required to use in reporting to the Department their mishandled baggage data changed in December 2018 and the Department is delaying the publication of this new data to allow for accuracy reviews. 

The report does include December mishandled baggage numbers using the prior metric because virtually all airlines voluntarily reported the monthly numbers for mishandled baggage reports using this metric.  In December 2018, the reporting carriers posted a mishandled baggage rate of 3.73 reports per 1,000 passengers, a higher rate than both 2.58 in November 2018 and December 2017’s rate of 3.31.  See pages 35-36 of the February 2019 Air Travel Consumer Report for more information.

Bumping/Oversales

Bumping/oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly.  For the full year 2018, the marketing carriers posted a bumping rate of 0.14 per 10,000 passengers.  For the fourth quarter of 2018, the 10 U.S. marketing carriers posted an involuntary denied boarding, or bumping, rate of 0.19 per 10,000 passengers, up from the marketing carrier rate of 0.13 for the third quarter of 2018. 

See pages 40-43 of the February 2019 Air Travel Consumer Report for denied boarding numbers by airline.

In 2018, the reporting carriers posted a bumping rate of 0.14 per 10,000 passengers, the lowest annual rate based on historical data dating back to 1995.  The previous low was 0.40 in 2017. 

For the fourth quarter of 2018, the 17 U.S. reporting carriers posted an involuntary denied boarding, or bumping, rate of 0.18 per 10,000 passengers, a higher rate than 0.13 in in the third quarter of 2018, but lower than the rate of 0.26 for the fourth quarter of 2017. 

Incidents Involving Animals

In 2018, carriers reported 10 animal deaths, injuries to seven other animals, and zero lost animals, for a total of 17 incidents, down from the 40 total incident reports filed for calendar year 2017.  In 2018, 424,621 animals were transported by airlines, for a rate of 0.40 incidents per 10,000 animals transported.  In 2017, 506,994 animals were transported, for a rate of 0.79 incidents per 10,000 animals transported.

In December, carriers reported two incidents involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, down from the three reports filed in December 2017, but up from the zero reports filed in November 2018.  December’s incidents involved the death of one animal and injury to one other animal. 

Complaints About Airline Service

In 2018, the Department received 15,541 complaints, down 14.4 percent from the total of 18,156 received in 2017.  In December, DOT received 1,001 complaints about airline service from consumers, down 19.7 percent from the total of 1,247 filed in December 2017 and down 12.8 percent from the 1,148 received in November 2018.

Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers

In 2018, the Department received 828 disability complaints, down 2.6 percent from the total of 850 received in 2017.  The Department received a total of 67 disability-related complaints in December, up from the 56 complaints received in December 2017, but down from the 73 complaints received in November 2018.  All complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of disability are investigated.

Complaints About Discrimination

In 2018, the Department received 96 discrimination complaints – 64 complaints regarding race, two complaints regarding ancestry/ethnicity, 12 complaints regarding national origin, six complaints regarding color, two complaints regarding religion, nine complaints regarding sex, and one complaint categorized as “other.”  This is decrease of 2.0 percent from the total of 98 filed in 2017. 

In December, the Department received three complaints alleging discrimination – all regarding race.  This is a decrease from the total of nine discrimination complaints recorded in December 2017 and the 12 recorded in November 2018.  All complaints alleging discrimination are investigated to determine if there has been a violation(s) of the passenger’s civil rights.

Consumers may file air travel consumer or civil rights complaints online at http://airconsumer.dot.gov/escomplaint/ConsumerForm.cfm, by voicemail at (202) 366-2220, or by TTY at (202) 366-0511.  They may also 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.

Consumers who want on-time performance data for specific flights should call their airline’s reservation number or their travel agent.  This information is available on the computerized reservation systems used by these agents.  The information is also available on the appropriate carrier’s website.

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Updated: Wednesday, March 13, 2019