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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Airline On-Time Performance Up, Cancellations Equal to Lowest Rate Ever

Friday, January 12, 2018

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today released its January 2018 Air Travel Consumer Report on air carrier data compiled for the month of November 2017.  In November, the reporting carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 88.3 percent, up from both the 86.5 percent on-time rate in November 2016 and the 84.8 percent mark in October 2017, and the second highest rate ever reported.  The highest rate was 88.6 in November 2009.

In November, the reporting carriers canceled 0.3 percent of their scheduled domestic flights, equal to the lowest rate set in September 2016 and November 2016 and down from the 0.7 percent rate in October 2017.

The consumer report also includes data on mishandled baggage, tarmac delays, chronically delayed flights, and the causes of flight delays filed with the Department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) by the reporting carriers.  In addition, the consumer report contains a record of aviation service complaints filed with DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division by consumers regarding a range of issues including flight problems, baggage, reservation and ticketing, refunds, customer service, disability access, and discrimination.  The report also includes data on oversales and information about the total number of animals that died, were injured, or were lost during air transport in November 2017, as filed by the air carriers with the Aviation Consumer Protection Division.

DOT has launched its redesigned airline consumer website to make it easy for travelers to understand their rights.  The full consumer report and other aviation consumer matters of interest to the public can be found at

Mishandled Baggage

The U.S. carriers reporting mishandled baggage data posted a mishandled baggage rate of 1.83 reports per 1,000 passengers in November, an improvement over both November 2016’s rate of 2.02 and October 2017’s rate of 2.04.

Tarmac Delays

In November, airlines reported no tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, equal to zero such tarmac delays reported in October 2017.  In November, airlines reported no tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, compared to two such tarmac delays reported in October 2017.  All reported extended tarmac delays are investigated by the Department.

Chronically Delayed Flights

At the end of November, there were no regularly scheduled flights that were chronically delayed – more than 30 minutes late more than 50 percent of the time – for two consecutive months or more.  A list of flights that were chronically delayed for one or more months is available from BTS.

Causes of Flight Delays

In November 2017, the carriers filing on-time performance data reported that 11.74 percent of their flights were delayed – 3.60 percent of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 4.73 percent in October; 3.89 percent by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 5.15 percent in October; 3.61 percent by factors within the airline’s control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 4.23 percent in October; 0.16 percent by extreme weather, compared to 0.24 percent in October; and 0.04 percent for security reasons, equal to 0.04 percent in October.  In addition, 0.31 percent of flights were canceled and 0.13 percent were diverted.

Weather is a factor in both the extreme-weather category and the aviation-system category.  This includes delays due to the re-routing of flights by DOT’s Federal Aviation Administration in consultation with the carriers involved.  Weather is also a factor in delays attributed to late-arriving aircraft, although airlines do not report specific causes in that category.

BTS uses the data collected from airlines to determine the percentage of late flights delayed by weather, which includes those reported in the categories of extreme weather, late-arriving aircraft, and National Aviation System delays.  In November, 27.84 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, down from 29.36 percent in November 2016 and up slightly from 27.42 percent in October 2017.

Detailed information on flight delays and their causes is available from BTS.


Oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly.  For the third quarter of 2017, the 12 U.S. carriers who report involuntary denied boarding, or bumping, data posted a bumping rate of 0.15 per 10,000 passengers, the lowest quarterly rate based on historical data dating back to 1995 and down from both the rate of 0.69 for the third quarter of 2016 and the previous lowest quarterly rate of 0.44 posted in the second quarter of 2017.  For the first nine months of this year, the carriers posted a bumping rate of 0.39 per 10,000 passengers, the lowest January through September rate based on historical data dating back to 1995 and down from the rate of 0.65 posted during the first nine months of 2016.  The previous lowest rate for the January through September period was 0.64 in 2002.  Third quarter and nine month bumping numbers were previously released in the November Air Travel Consumer Report, which includes denied boarding numbers by airline.

Incidents Involving Animals

In November, carriers reported one incident involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, down from both the four reports filed in November 2016 and the five reports filed in October 2017.  November’s incident involved injury to one animal.

Complaints About Airline Service

In November, DOT received 1,299 complaints about airline service from consumers, up 27.1 percent from the total of 1,022 filed in November 2016 and up 9.3 percent from the 1,188 received in October 2017.

Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers

The report also contains a tabulation of complaints filed with DOT in November against airlines regarding the treatment of passengers with disabilities.  The Department received a total of 63 disability-related complaints in November, down from both the 73 complaints received in November 2016 and the 66 received in October 2017.  All complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of disability are investigated.

Complaints About Discrimination

In November 2017, the Aviation Consumer Protection Division received 13 complaints alleging discrimination – seven complaints regarding race, two complaints regarding ancestry/ethnicity, one complaint regarding color, one complaint regarding religion, and two complaints regarding sex.  This is down from the total of 14 recorded in November 2016 and up from the eight recorded in October 2017.  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 on the web at or by voice mail 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.



January 2018


Based on Data Filed with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics by the 12 Reporting Carriers and Tarmac Data Filed by All Carriers


     88.3 percent on-time arrivals

Highest On-Time Arrival Rates

  1. Delta Air Lines – 93.7 percent
  2. Spirit Airlines – 89.8 percent
  3. Hawaiian Airlines – 89.3 percent

Lowest On-Time Arrival Rates 

  1. Virgin America – 77.5 percent
  2. Alaska Airlines – 83.2 percent
  3. SkyWest Airlines – 85.4 percent

Domestic Flights with Longest Tarmac Delays Exceeding Three Hours

* There were no domestic flights in November with tarmac delays exceeding three hours.

International Flights with Longest Tarmac Delays Exceeding Four Hours

* There were no international flights in November with tarmac delays exceeding four hours.

Highest Rates of Canceled Flights  

  1. Virgin America – 1.3 percent
  2. Alaska Airlines – 0.9 percent
  3. SkyWest Airlines – 0.7 percent

Lowest Rates of Canceled Flights

  1. Delta Air Lines – 0.0 percent*
  2. United Airlines – 0.0 percent**
  3. American Airlines – 0.1 percent

* Delta Air Lines canceled 0 flights in November.

** United Airlines canceled 18 flights in November.