Air Travel Consumer Report: September 2021 and 3rd Quarter 2021 Numbers
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation today released its Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) on airline operational data compiled for the month of September 2021 and 3rd quarter 2021 numbers (9 months data) for on-time performance, mishandled baggage, mishandled wheelchairs and scooters, complaints received, and oversales. The ATCR is designed to assist consumers with information on the quality of services provided by airlines. The ATCR and other aviation consumer matters of interest to the public can be found at https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer.
The COVID-19 pandemic continued to result in significant changes to airline schedules and operations in September 2021. The 560,140 flights operated in September 2021 were 86.2% of the 649,667 flights operated in pre-pandemic September 2019. The 4,559,567 flights operated during the first nine months of 2021 were 76% of the 5,928,968 flights operated in pre-pandemic January to September 2019.
Operated flights in September 2021 were up 63.4% year-over-year from the 342,771 flights operated in September 2020 and down 5.5% month-over-month from the 592,760 flights operated in August 2021.
In September 2021, the 10 marketing network carriers reported 567,916 scheduled domestic flights, 7,776 (1.37 %) of which were canceled. In September 2020, the same airlines reported 345,294 scheduled domestic flights, 2,523 (0.7%) of which were canceled. In pre-pandemic September 2019, airlines reported 660,712 scheduled domestic flights, 11,045 (1.67%) of which were canceled. In August 2021, airlines scheduled 611,494 domestic flights, of which 18,734 (3.06%) were canceled.
September and 3rd Quarter 2021 On-Time Performance
In September 2021, reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 84.5%, up from 74.3% in August 2021 and down from the all-time high of 92.9% in September 2020.
For the first nine months of 2021, reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 81.47%, down from 82.87% in January – September of 2019.
Highest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates September 2021 (ATCR Table 1)
1. Hawaiian Airlines – 94.0%
2. Delta Air Lines Network – 90.2%
3. American Airlines Network – 86.2%
Lowest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates September 2021 (ATCR Table 1)
1. Allegiant Air – 73.7%
2. JetBlue Airways – 74.3%
3. Southwest Airlines – 80.2%
In September 2021, reporting marketing carriers canceled 1.37% of their scheduled domestic flights, lower than the rate of 3.1% in August 2021 and higher than the 0.7% in September 2020.
Lowest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights September 2021 (ATCR Table 6)
1. Delta Air Lines Network – 0.5%
2. Hawaiian Airlines – 0.6%
3. Alaska Airlines Network – 0.6%
Highest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights September 2021 (ATCR Table 6)
1. JetBlue Airways – 2.6%
2. Southwest Airlines – 2.4%
3. United Airlines Network – 2.0%
In September 2021, airlines reported 17 tarmac delay of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to 37 tarmac delays reported in August 2021 and no tarmac delays reported in September 2020. In September 2021, airlines reported 0 tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, compared to 4 tarmac delays reported in August 2021 and no tarmac delays in September 2020.
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 in order to deplane passengers by those times.
Extended tarmac delays are investigated by the Department.
In September 2021, the reporting marketing carriers posted a mishandled baggage rate of 4.47 mishandled bags per 1,000 checked bags, a lower rate than the August 2021 rate of 6.29 per 1,000 checked bags and higher than the September 2020 rate of 2.97 per 1,000 checked bags.
For the first nine months of 2021, reporting marketing carriers mishandled bags at a rate of 4.88 per 1,000 bags checked, higher than the 4.28 per 1,000 mishandled in 2020.
Mishandled Wheelchairs and Scooters
In September 2021, reporting marketing carriers reported checking 53,247 wheelchairs and scooters and mishandling 645, a rate of 1.21% mishandled, lower than both the rate of 1.41% mishandled in August 2021 and the rate of 1.29% mishandled in September 2020. In September 2020, the airlines checked 18,569 wheelchairs and scooters, mishandling 240.
For the first nine months of 2021, reporting marketing carriers mishandled 4,768 wheelchairs and scooters at a rate of 1.27%, compared to 2,712 wheelchairs and scooters mishandled in 2020 at a rate of 1.31%.
Bumping/oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly.
For the third quarter of 2021, the 10 U.S. reporting marketing carriers posted an involuntary denied boarding, or bumping, rate of 0.16 per 10,000 passengers, lower than the rate of 0.17 in the second quarter of 2021 as well as in the third quarter of 2020.
For the first nine months of 2021, the marketing carriers posted a bumping rate of 0.15 per 10,000 passengers, a higher rate than the 0.13 for the same period last year.
Incidents Involving Animals
In September 2021, carriers reported one incident involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, down from the four reports filed in August 2021 and up from the zero reports filed in September 2020. September’s incidents involved the death of one animal.
Complaints About Airline Service
In September 2021, DOT received 4,271 complaints about airline service from consumers, down 35.9% from the 6,666 received in August 2021, and down 25.94% from the total of 5,767 filed in September 2020. Of the 4,271 complaints received in September 2021, 1,856 (43.5%) were against U.S. carriers, 1,779 (41.7%) were against foreign air carriers, and 758 (17%) were against travel companies.
Also, of the 4,271 complaints received, 2,490 (58.3%) concerned refunds. The Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection continues to communicate with airlines and travel companies that receive refund complaints to ensure compliance with the refund requirements. Many passengers who had initially been denied refunds have received the required refunds. The Department has taken and will take enforcement action against noncompliant airlines and ticket agents as necessary.
Flight problems was the second highest category of the complaints received in September 2021. Of the 4,271 complaints received, 467 (10.1%) concerned cancellations, delays or other deviations from airlines’ schedules. The Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection routinely contacts airlines with widespread cancellations or delays to remind them of their obligation to promptly refund passengers who choose not to accept the alternative offered for a canceled or significantly changed flight.
Airlines are also required to have and adhere to a customer service plan that identifies the services that the airline provides to mitigate passenger inconveniences resulting from flight cancellations and misconnections. The Department monitors airlines’ actions and reviews complaints that it receives against airlines to ensure that consumers’ rights are not violated.
For the first nine months of 2021, the Department received 38,318 complaints, down 57.4% from the 89,925 filed during the first nine months of 2020.
Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers
In September 2021, the Department received a total of 134 disability-related complaints, down from the 161 complaints received in August 2021 and up from the 46 complaints received in September 2020.
For the first nine months of 2021, the Department received 908 disability-related complaints, up from the total of 403 filed during the first nine months of 2020.
Complaints About Discrimination
In September 2021, the Department received 10 complaints alleging discrimination – six complaints regarding race, one complaint regarding national origin, one complaint regarding color, one complaint regarding religion, and one complaint categorized as “other.” This is the same as the10 complaints received in August 2021 and up from the four complaints received in September 2020.
For the first nine months of 2021, the Department received 97 discrimination complaints – 61 complaints regarding race, five complaints regarding ancestry/ethnicity, eleven complaints regarding national origin, four complaints regarding color, seven complaints regarding religion, six complaints regarding sexual discrimination, and three complaint categorized as “other.” This is up from the total of 41 filed during the first nine months of 2020.
The ATCR and other aviation consumer matters of interest to the public can be found at https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer.
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.