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Air Travel Consumer Report: October 2023 Numbers

Friday, January 5, 2024

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 October 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. For the first 10 months of 2023, 1.5% of flights were canceled, far below the 2.6% cancellation rate for the first 10 months of 2022 and the 2.1% cancellation rate for first 10 months of 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.

In 2023, 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 return more than $3 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 airlines now 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 expanded the user-friendly 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. In May, DOT announced plans to launch a new rulemaking that would propose to make passenger compensation and amenities mandatory so that travelers are taken care of when airlines cause flight delays or cancellations, such as staffing issues or mechanical problems.

Further, in 2023, 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 four 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.

Flight Operations

The 633,349 flights operated in October 2023 were 107.27% of the 590,444 flights operated in October 2022. Operated flights in October 2023 were up 7.27% year-over-year from the 590,444 flights operated in October 2022 and up 6.05% month-over-month from 597,223 flights operated in September 2023. 

"U.S. Airlines Operated Domestic Flights: October 2021-October 2023. Operated=Scheduled - Canceled"

In October 2023, the 10 marketing network carriers reported 635,538 scheduled domestic flights, 2,189 (0.3%) of which were canceled. In September 2023, airlines scheduled 604,715 domestic flights, of which 7,492 (1.2%) were canceled. In October 2022, airlines scheduled 595,322 domestic flights, of which 4,878 (0.8%) were canceled.

October 2023 On-Time Arrival

In October 2023, reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 84.1%, up from both 80.3% in September 2023 and from 83.4% in October 2022. The year-to-date on-time arrival rate for 2023 is 77.0%.

Highest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates October 2023 (ATCR Table 1)

  1. Delta Airlines Network – 90.7%
  2. United Airlines Network – 85.9%
  3. Alaska Airlines Network – 85.4% 

Lowest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates October 2023 (ATCR Table 1)

  1. Frontier Airlines – 73.9%
  2. JetBlue Airways – 73.9%
  3. Hawaiian Airlines – 76.3%

October 2023 Flight Cancellations

In October 2023, reporting marketing carriers canceled 0.3% of their scheduled domestic flights, lower than the rate 1.2% in both September 2023 and 0.8% in October 2022. The year-to-date cancellation rate for 2023 is 1.5%.

Lowest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights October 2023 (ATCR Table 6)

  1. Delta Air Lines Network – 0.0%*  
  2. JetBlue Airways – 0.2%   
  3. Allegiant Airlines – 0.2%    

*Delta canceled 61 flights in October.
Highest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights October 2023 (ATCR Table 6)

  1. Hawaiian Airlines – 1.7%    
  2. Spirit Airlines – 1.6%    
  3. Frontier Airlines – 0.7%    

Complaints About Airline Service

The release of air travel service complaint data in the Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) has been delayed primarily because of the continued high volume of complaints against airlines and ticket agents received by the Office of Aviation Consumer Protection (OACP) and the time needed to review and process these consumer complaints. The Department has been examining how best to review and process the consumer complaints received to avoid reporting delays. This review led the Department to invest in updating its consumer complaint application system, which was developed in 1996, to bring it up to current technology standards. It also led the Department to seek a Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) investment to further enhance OACP’s consumer complaint and case tracking application system to improve the customer experience for the tens of thousands of consumers who use the system each year and enable OACP to more effectively engage in oversight of the airline industry. On September 29, 2023, the TMF announced that it was awarding DOT an $8 million grant towards this effort.  

In the interim, given the continued high volume of air travel service complaints concerning airlines and ticket agents, the Department has revised how it processes consumer complaints received from June 1 to December 31, 2023. The Department will revise the ATCR to display consumer submissions (complaints, inquiries, and opinions) as opposed to complaints for this period. The Department will continue to display civil rights complaints in the ATCR in a similar manner as before. 

Tarmac Delays

In October 2023, airlines reported six tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to 57 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights reported in September 2023. In October 2023, airlines reported zero tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, compared to six tarmac delay reported in September 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.

The Department investigates extended tarmac delays.

Mishandled Baggage

In October 2023, reporting marketing carriers handled 41.0 million bags and posted a mishandled baggage rate of 0.44%, lower than both the rate of 0.53% in September 2023 and the rate of 0.49% in October 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 October 2023, reporting marketing carriers reported checking 77,411 wheelchairs and scooters and mishandling 1,030 for a rate of 1.33% mishandled wheelchairs and scooters, lower than the rate of 1.42% mishandled in September 2023 and lower than the rate of 1.38% mishandled in October 2022.

To address many of the significant barriers and challenges experienced by passengers who use wheelchairs, the Department has initiated a rulemaking proposing that, if adopted after public comment would, among other actions, make it an automatic violation of the Department’s Air Carrier Access Act regulations for airlines to mishandle a passenger’s wheelchair. This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would also enhance training requirements for airline personnel who provide hands-on transfer assistance to passengers and handle wheelchairs. This rulemaking is currently under review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.


Bumping/oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly.
For the third quarter of 2023, the 10 U.S. reporting marketing carriers posted an involuntary denied boarding, or bumping, rate of 0.35 per 10,000 passengers, lower than the rate of 0.36 in the second quarter of 2023 and higher than the rate of 0.22 in the third quarter of 2022.

Incidents Involving Animals

In October 2023, carriers reported 2 incidents involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, equal to the two reports filed in both September 2023 and in October 2022.

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.

The ATCR and other aviation consumer matters of interest to the public can be found at