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Airlines Report 27 Tarmac Delays Over Three Hours on Domestic Flights, No Tarmac Delays Over Four Hours on International Flights in May

Friday, July 14, 2017


WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today released its July 2017 Air Travel Consumer Report, compiling air carrier data for the month of May 2017.  In May, airlines reported 27 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights and no tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights.  Twenty-four of the long tarmac delays took place in Philadelphia on May 25, when there were heavy thundershowers in the area.  All reported extended tarmac delays are being investigated by the Department.

The reporting carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 79.1 percent in May 2017, down from the 83.4 percent on-time rate in May 2016, but up from the 78.5 percent mark in April 2017.

The reporting carriers canceled 0.8 percent of their scheduled domestic flights in May 2017, up from the 0.5 percent cancellation rate posted in May 2016, but down from the 1.6 percent rate in April 2017.

The consumer report also includes data on 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 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 May 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:

Chronically Delayed Flights

At the end of May, there were 12 flights that were chronically delayed – more than 30 minutes late more than 50 percent of the time – for three consecutive months.  There were 48 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 May, the carriers filing on-time performance data reported that 20.89 percent of their flights were delayed – 6.89 percent of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared to 6.40 percent in April; 7.40 percent by late-arriving aircraft, compared to 7.39 percent in April; 5.19 percent by factors within the airline’s control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared to 5.24 percent in April; 0.37 percent by extreme weather, compared to 0.63 percent in April; and 0.02 percent for security reasons, equal to 0.02 percent in April.  In addition, 0.83 percent of flights were canceled and 0.19 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 May, 28.56 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, down from 34.60 percent in May 2016 and from 31.00 percent in April 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 2.32 reports per 1,000 passengers in May, an improvement over both May 2016’s rate of 2.40 and April 2017’s rate of 2.53


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 May, carriers reported one incident involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, down from the four reports filed in May 2016 and equal to the one report filed in April 2017.  May’s incident involved the death of one animal.

Complaints About Airline Service

In May, DOT received 1,779 complaints about airline service from consumers, up 56.7 percent from the total of 1,135 filed in May 2016, but down 6.8 percent from the 1,909 received in April 2017.

Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers

The report also contains a tabulation of complaints filed with DOT in May against airlines regarding the treatment of passengers with disabilities.  The Department received a total of 78 disability-related complaints in May, up from the 66 complaints received in both May 2016 and in April 2017.  All complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of disability are investigated.

Complaints About Discrimination

In May, the Department received nine complaints alleging discrimination – five complaints regarding race, two complaints regarding national origin, and two complaints regarding sex.  This is an increase from the total of seven recorded in May 2016, but down from the 12 recorded in April 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


July 2017

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


     79.1 percent on-time arrivals

Highest On-Time Arrival Rates

  1. Hawaiian Airlines – 89.7 percent
  2. Delta Air Lines – 82.8 percent
  3. Alaska Airlines – 82.6 percent

Lowest On-Time Arrival Rates 

  1. Virgin America – 58.7 percent
  2. JetBlue Airways – 67.2 percent
  3. Spirit Airlines – 69.0 percent

Domestic Flights with Longest Tarmac Delays Exceeding Three Hours

  1. American Airlines flight 735 from Philadelphia to Las Vegas, 5/25/17 – delayed 318 minutes on the tarmac in Philadelphia
  2. Republic Airline flight 4530 from Philadelphia to Memphis, Tenn., 5/25/17 – delayed 292 minutes on the tarmac in Philadelphia
  3. American Airlines flight 1697 from Fort Myers, Fla. to Philadelphia, 5/25/17 – delayed 270 minutes on the tarmac in Philadelphia
  4. Republic Airline flight 4576 from Philadelphia to Columbus, Ohio., 5/25/17 – delayed 250 minutes on the tarmac in Philadelphia
  5. Southwest Airlines flight 1384 from Philadelphia to Nashville, Tenn., 5/25/17 – delayed 246 minutes on the tarmac in Philadelphia

International Flights with Longest Tarmac Delays Exceeding Four Hours

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

Highest Rates of Canceled Flights  

  1. Spirit Airlines – 6.3 percent
  2. JetBlue Airways – 2.6 percent
  3. ExpressJet Airlines – 2.4 percent

Lowest Rates of Canceled Flights

  1. Delta Air Lines – 0.1 percent
  2. United Airlines – 0.1 percent
  3. Hawaiian Airlines – 0.2 percent