Air Travel Consumer Report: May 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 May 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. In May 2023, cancellations were 0.6%, which is significantly lower than the cancellation rate of 2% in May 2022. For the first five months of 2023, cancellations have stayed below 2% and are far lower than the 2.7% cancellation rate last year and in 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.
Last year, DOT issued the largest fines in the history of the consumer protection office primarily based on complaints received. Since the pandemic began, the Department has helped to get more than $2.5 billion in refunds to travelers.
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 U.S. airlines 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 recently expanded the 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. Also, in May 2023, DOT announced plans to launch a new rulemaking that would require airlines to provide compensation and cover expenses for amenities such as meals, hotels, and rebooking when airlines are responsible for stranding passengers. DOT’s planned rulemaking would propose to make passenger compensation and amenities mandatory for U.S. and foreign airlines so that travelers are taken care of when airlines cause flight disruptions.
Further, earlier this year, President Biden and Secretary Buttigieg pressed airlines to commit to fee-free family seating. Before their urging, no airline committed to guaranteeing fee-free family seating. Now three 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.
The 612,797 flights operated in May 2023 were 103.70% of the 590,957 flights operated in May 2022. Operated flights in May 2023 were up 3.70% year-over-year from the 590,957 flights operated in May 2022 and up 4.51% month-over-month from 586,353 flights operated in April 2023.
In May 2023, the 10 marketing network carriers reported 616,630 scheduled domestic flights, 3,833 (0.6%) of which were canceled. In May 2022, airlines scheduled 590,957 domestic flights, of which 11,993 (2.0%) were canceled.
May 2023 On-Time Arrival
In May 2023, reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 81.2% up from both 75.7% in April 2023 and 77.2% in May 2022. The year-to-date on-time arrival rate for 2023 is 77.6%.
Highest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates May 2023 (ATCR Table 1)
- Delta Air Lines Network – 88.8%
- Alaska Airlines Network – 83.9%
- American Airlines Network – 82.8%
Lowest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates May 2023 (ATCR Table 1)
- Hawaiian Airlines – 61.3%
- Frontier Airlines – 66.7%
- Spirit Airlines – 73.8%
May 2023 Flight Cancellations
In May 2023, reporting marketing carriers canceled 0.6% of their scheduled domestic flights, lower than both the rate of 1.7% in April 2023 and the rate of 2.0% in May 2022.
Lowest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights May 2023 (ATCR Table 6)
- Allegiant Air – 0.2%
- Alaska Airlines Network – 0.3%
- Delta Air Lines – 0.4%
Highest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights May 2023 (ATCR Table 6)
- Hawaiian Airlines – 2.6%
- Frontier Airlines – 1.3%
- United Airlines Network – 1.2%
Complaints About Airline Service
The Department has received a high volume of air travel service complaints and inquiries against airlines and ticket agents in recent months. The Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection is processing the large number of complaints and inquiries received. 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 is examining how best to review and process the consumer complaints received so not to delay its reporting.
In May 2023, airlines reported three tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to 18 tarmac delays reported in April 2023. In May 2023, airlines reported two tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, compared to three tarmac delays reported in April 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.
Extended tarmac delays are investigated by the Department.
In May 2023, reporting marketing carriers handled 42.1 million bags and posted a mishandled baggage rate of 0.51%, lower than both the rate of 0.55% in April 2023 and the rate of 0.56% in May 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 May 2023, reporting marketing carriers reported checking 79,725 wheelchairs and scooters and mishandling 1,011, for a rate of 1.27% mishandled wheelchairs and scooters, lower than both the rate of 1.35% mishandled in April 2023 and the rate of 1.53% mishandled in May 2022.
Bumping/oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly.
For the first quarter of 2023, the 10 U.S. reporting marketing carriers posted an involuntary denied boarding, or bumping, rate of 0.30 per 10,000 passengers, higher than the rate of 0.08 in the first quarter of 2021 and lower than the rate of 0.44 in the first quarter of 2022.
Incidents Involving Animals
In May 2023, 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 April 2023 and in May 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.