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Summer Travel 2024: Record Air Travel, Fewer Cancellations, Better Airports, More Passenger Protections

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Year-to-date flight cancellation rate is just 1.4% during a record-breaking summer travel season​​​​​

WASHINGTON – Despite record-breaking levels of air travel this year, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) numbers show that the flight cancellation rate for the first half of 2024 was just 1.4% – nearly the lowest rate in over a decade. The latest data from airlines reported to the U.S. Department of Transportation shows that weather continues to be the leading cause of flight cancellations.

Percent of Scheduled Flights Cancelled from 2015 to 2024

On June 23, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened more than 2.99 million individuals in a single day at U.S. airports – the most airline passengers the agency has screened in its history. TSA expects to screen more than 32 million individuals this Independence Day travel season, which is a 5.4% increase over last year. At the same time, airfares are down 6% over the last year and below pre-pandemic prices.

“This year’s record-breaking air travel is another good sign for our economy as more Americans take to the skies than ever before,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “To help avoid travel headaches, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken historic action to modernize airports and expand passenger protections for a smoother travel experience.” 

President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests $25 billion in U.S. airport infrastructure over five years. This unprecedented investment is not only improving runways and air traffic control towers but also adding gates and adding flight capacity, modernizing baggage systems, replacing passenger boarding bridges, reconfiguring security screening areas, improving safety, and more to finally deliver world-class airports in the U.S. and meet anticipated demand in the decades to come. Just this week, the Federal Aviation Administration announced $289 million in airport infrastructure grants in 40 states and an additional $1 billion in available funding to modernize airport terminals. Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, nearly 200 terminal projects are already under construction to modernize America’s airports and make air travel safer and smoother. 

The Biden-Harris Administration has taken historic action to improve airline passenger rights and oversight of the airline industry: 

  • Created a new rule to require airlines to provide automatic cash refunds to passengers when owed.  
    • The rule makes clear that airline passengers are entitled to a refund when their flight is canceled or significantly changed and they no longer wish to take that flight or be rebooked, when their checked baggage is significantly delayed, or when extra services they paid for – like Wi-Fi – are not provided. The rule also requires refunds to be automatic, prompt, in the original form of payment, and in the full amount paid. Airlines must comply with the rule by late October.  
    • Provisions of the final rule on airline refunds were fortified through the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024 that President Biden signed into law on May 16, 2024. 
  • Created a new rule to protect consumers from costly surprise airline junk fees.
    • The rule creates a more competitive airline market by requiring airlines to disclose critical extra fees – like change fees and baggage fees – upfront to ensure consumers can better understand the true cost of air travel. The rule also bans “bait-and-switch” advertising tactics and requires airlines to clearly tell passengers upfront that a seat is included with the cost of their ticket. This rule is expected to save consumers over half a billion dollars every year.  
  • Launched the dashboard, after which all 10 major U.S. airlines guaranteed free rebooking and meals when an airline issue causes a significant delay or cancellation. These are new commitments the airlines added to their customer service plans that DOT can legally ensure they adhere to through enforcement action.  
  • Secured nearly $4 billion in refunds and reimbursements owed to airline passengers – including over $600 million to passengers affected by the Southwest Airlines holiday meltdown in 2022.  
  • Issued nearly $170 million in penalties against airlines for consumer protection violations since President Biden took office. In comparison, between 1996 and 2020, DOT collectively issued less than $71 million in penalties against airlines for consumer protection violations.  
  • Set up a system to expand the Department’s capacity to review air travel service complaints by partnering with a bipartisan group of state attorneys general, which will help hold airlines accountable and protect the rights of the traveling public.