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Air Travel Consumer Report: May 2021 Numbers

Friday, July 16, 2021

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation today released its July 2021 Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) on airline operational data compiled for the month of May 2021. 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

The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic resulted in significant changes to airline schedules and operations in May 2021, although airlines scheduled and operated more flights in May 2021 than any month since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.  

The total number of flights operated in May 2021 has reached 76% of pre-pandemic levels with 517,709 flights operated in May 2021 and 680,165 flights operated in May 2019. Flights operated in May 2021 (517,709) were more than double the flights operated in May 2020 (180,151).

In May 2021, the 10 marketing network carriers reported 520,059 scheduled domestic flights, 2,350 (0.5%) of which were canceled, and 517,709 of which were operated. In May 2020, the same airlines reported 192,412 scheduled domestic flights, 12,261 (6.4%) of which were canceled, and 180,151 of which were operated.  In pre-pandemic May 2019, airlines reported 694,311 scheduled domestic flights, 14,146 (2.0%) of which were canceled, and 680,165 of which were operated.  

When compared to the prior month, May 2021 saw an 8.2% decrease in flight cancellations and 9.8% increase in flights operated.  

May On-Time Performance   

In May 2021, reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 86.2%, down from both 88.7% in April 2021 and 89.1% in May 2020.    
Highest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates May 2021 (ATCR Table 1)

1.    Hawaiian Airlines – 93.0%  
2.    Delta Air Lines Network – 91.3%    
3.    Alaska Airlines Network – 90.0%   

Lowest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates May 2021 (ATCR Table 1)   
1.    Allegiant Air – 78.4%   
2.    Southwest Airlines – 81.3%   
3.    JetBlue Airways – 81.5%   

May Cancellations   
In May 2021, reporting marketing carriers canceled 0.5% of their scheduled domestic flights, equal to the rate of 0.5% in April 2021 and lower than 6.4% in May 2020. 

Lowest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights May 2021 (ATCR Table 6)   
1.    Delta Air Lines Network – 0.0%* 
2.    Hawaiian Airlines – 0.0%*   
3.    Frontier Airlines – 0.1%   
*Delta reported 24 canceled flights and Hawaiian reported two canceled flights in April. 
Highest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights May 2021 (ATCR Table 6)   
1.    American Airlines Network – 1.1%   
2.    Alaska Airlines Network – 0.4%   
3.    United Airlines Network – 0.3%   

Tarmac Delays    
In May 2021, airlines reported one tarmac delay of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to two tarmac delays reported in April 2021 and no tarmac delays reported in May 2020.  In May 2021, airlines reported no tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, compared to no tarmac delays reported in April 2021 and no tarmac delays in May 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. Extended tarmac delays are investigated by the Department.   

Mishandled Baggage   
In May 2021, the reporting marketing carriers posted a mishandled baggage rate of 3.81 mishandled bags per 1,000 checked bags, a higher rate than both the April 2021 rate of 3.26 per 1,000 checked bags and the May 2020 rate of 2.79 per 1,000 checked bags.    
Mishandled Wheelchairs and Scooters   
In May 2021, reporting marketing airlines reported checking 51,131 wheelchairs and scooters and mishandling 601, a rate of 1.18% mishandled, higher than both the rate of 1.13% mishandled in April 2021 and the rate of 0.95% in May 2020. In May 2020, the airlines checked 6,620 wheelchairs and scooters, mishandling 63.    
Bumping/oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly.  First quarter 2021 bumping/oversales data were released in the May 2021 Air Travel Consumer Report.  Second quarter 2021 bumping/oversales data will be available in the August 2021 Air Travel Consumer Report.   
Incidents Involving Animals   
In May 2021, carriers reported 4 incidents involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, up from zero reports filed in April 2021 and up from the one report filed in May 2020.   
Complaints About Airline Service   
In May 2021, DOT received 3,539 complaints about airline service from consumers, up 2.1% from the 3,462 received in April 2021, and down 83.8% from the total of 21,951 filed in May 2020. Of the 3,539 complaints received in May 2021, 1,216 (34.3%) were against U.S. carriers, 1,637 (46.2%) were against foreign air carriers, and 683 (19.2%) were against travel companies.  Also, of the 3,539 complaints received, 2,273 (64.2%) concerned refunds.     
The Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection continues to communicate with airlines and travel companies that received a large number of 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.   
Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers   
In May 2021, the Department received a total of 108 disability-related complaints, up from both the 99 complaints received in April 2021 and the 19 complaints received in May 2020.    
The Air Carrier Access Act and the Department’s implementing regulation prohibit discrimination by airlines against individuals on the basis of disability. All complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of disability are investigated by the Department.   
Complaints About Discrimination   
In May 2021, the Department received 13 complaints alleging discrimination – eight complaints regarding race, one complaint regarding ancestry/ethnicity, three complaints regarding national origin and one complaint regarding color. This is up from the 10 complaints received in April 2021 and up from the zero complaints received in May 2020.   
Federal law prohibits discrimination in air transportation by airlines on the basis of a person’s race, color, national origin, religion, ancestry, or sex. The Department investigates all complaints that it receives alleging discrimination.   
Consumers may file air travel consumer or civil rights complaints online at 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.