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Airline Consumer Complaints Up From Previous Year, March 2017

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today released its June 2017 Air Travel Consumer Report, compiling air carrier data for the month of April 2017.  In April, DOT received 1,909 complaints about airline service from consumers, up 70.0 percent from the total of 1,123 filed in April 2016 and up 68.6 percent from the 1,132 received in March 2017.

The reporting carriers canceled 1.6 percent of their scheduled domestic flights in April 2017, up from the 0.9 percent cancellation rate posted in April 2016, but down from the 1.8 percent rate in March 2017.

The reporting carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 78.5 percent in April 2017, down from both the 84.5 percent on-time rate in April 2016 and the 79.9 percent mark in March 2017.

The consumer report also includes data on 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.  The report also includes statistics on mishandled baggage reports filed by consumers with the reporting carriers, data on oversales, and information about the total number of animals that died, were injured, or were lost during air transport in April 2017, as filed by the air carriers with the Aviation Consumer Protection Division.

The Department has launched an airline passenger microsite to make it easy for travelers to understand their rights.  The site can be viewed here:

Tarmac Delays

In April, airlines reported one tarmac delay of more than three hours on a domestic flight and no tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights.

Chronically Delayed Flights

At the end of April, there were two flights that were chronically delayed – more than 30 minutes late more than 50 percent of the time – for three consecutive months.  There were 28 additional regularly scheduled flights that were chronically delayed for two consecutive months.  There were no chronically delayed flights for four consecutive months or more.  A list of flights that were chronically delayed for a single month is available from BTS.

Causes of Flight Delays

In April, the carriers filing on-time performance data reported that 21.46 percent of their flights were delayed – 6.40 percent of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 6.06 percent in March; 7.39 percent by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 6.78 percent in March; 5.24 percent by factors within the airline’s control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 4.88 percent in March; 0.63 percent by extreme weather, compared to 0.40 percent in March; and 0.02 percent for security reasons, equal to 0.02 percent in March.  In addition, 1.58 percent of flights were canceled and 0.20 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 April, 31.00 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, up from 29.94 percent in April 2016 but down from 32.05 percent in March 2017.

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

Mishandled Baggage

The U.S. carriers reporting mishandled baggage data posted a mishandled baggage rate of 2.53 reports per 1,000 passengers in April, up from both April 2016’s rate of 2.31 and March 2017’s rate of 2.24


For the first quarter of 2017, the 12 U.S. carriers who report on-time performance and mishandled baggage data posted an involuntary denied boarding, or bumping, rate of 0.62 per 10,000 passengers, equal to the 0.62 rate reported for the first quarter of 2016.  First-quarter bumping numbers were previously released in the May Air Travel Consumer Report, which includes denied boarding numbers by airline.

Incidents Involving Animals

In April, carriers reported one incident involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, down from both the seven reports filed in April 2016 and the two reports filed in March 2017.  April’s incident involved the death of one animal.

Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers

The report also contains a tabulation of complaints filed with DOT in April against airlines regarding the treatment of passengers with disabilities.  The Department received a total of 66 disability-related complaints in April, up from both the 52 complaints received in April 2016 and the 56 complaints received in March 2017.  All complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of disability are investigated.

Complaints About Discrimination

In April, the Department received 12 complaints alleging discrimination – nine complaints regarding race, one complaint regarding ancestry/ethnicity, one complaint regarding color, and one complaint regarding sex.  This is an increase from the total of four recorded in both April 2016 and March 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.

The Air Travel Consumer Report can be found on DOT’s website at



June 2017



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


     78.5 percent on-time arrivals

Highest On-Time Arrival Rates

  1. Hawaiian Airlines – 88.8 percent
  2. United Airlines – 81.9 percent
  3. Alaska Airlines – 81.6 percent

Lowest On-Time Arrival Rates 

  1. Virgin America – 64.6 percent
  2. JetBlue Airways – 72.4 percent
  3. ExpressJet Airlines – 75.7 percent

Domestic Flights with Longest Tarmac Delays Exceeding Three Hours

  1. Trans States Airlines flight 4383 from Hartford, Conn. to Washington Reagan National, 4/6/17 – delayed 218 minutes on the tarmac at Washington Dulles after being diverted

International Flights with Longest Tarmac Delays Exceeding Four Hours

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

Highest Rates of Canceled Flights  

  1. Delta Air Lines – 4.1 percent
  2. ExpressJet Airlines – 3.0 percent
  3. Spirit Airlines – 1.8 percent

Lowest Rates of Canceled Flights

  1. United Airlines – 0.1 percent
  2. Hawaiian Airlines – 0.2 percent
  3. Frontier Airlines – 0.3 percent


DOT 48-17