Airlines Report Uptick in Lengthy Tarmac Delays in July

Weather was a factor in in many of the delays

Airlines reported 18 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights and one tarmac delay of more than four hours on international flights in July, according to a new U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Air Travel Consumer Report. 

Sixteen of the long domestic tarmac delays took place on July 13 and involved flights bound for or departing from Chicago O’Hare Airport, where severe storms affected the area that day. DOT is investigating all of the reported tarmac delays. 

The larger U.S. airlines have been required to file complete reports on their long tarmac delays for domestic flights since October 2008. Under a new rule that took effect Aug. 23, 2011, all U.S. and foreign airlines operating at least one aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats must report lengthy tarmac delays at U.S. airports. 

Also beginning Aug. 23, 2011, carriers operating international flights may not allow tarmac delays at U.S. airports to last longer than four hours. There is a separate three-hour limit on tarmac delays involving domestic flights, which went into effect in April 2010. Exceptions to the time limits for both domestic and international flights are allowed only for safety, security, or air traffic control-related reasons. Severe weather could cause or worsen such situations. 

Among other areas covered by the report are: 

On-time performance 

The reporting carriers posted an on-time arrival rate in July of 76.0 percent, compared with July 2011’s 77.8 percent mark and June 2012’s 80.7 percent. 

Cancellations 

The reporting carriers canceled 1.4 percent of their scheduled domestic flights in July, versus the 1.7 percent cancellation rate posted in July 2011 June 2012’s cancellation rate of 1.1 percent. 

Chronically delayed flights 

At the end of July, there were four flights that were chronically delayed -- more than 30 minutes late more than 50 percent of the time -- for three consecutive months. There were 14 additional flights that were chronically delayed for two consecutive months. There were no chronically delayed flights for four consecutive months or more. 

Causes of flight delays 

In July, the carriers filing on-time performance data reported that 6.07 percent of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared with 4.82 percent in June; 9.03 percent by late-arriving aircraft, versus 6.98 percent in June; 6.32 percent by factors within the airline’s control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared with 5.62 percent in June; 0.82 percent by extreme weather, versus 0.50 percent in June; and 0.04 percent for security reasons, the same as in June. 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. 

Data also show the percentage of late flights delayed by weather, including those reported in either the category of extreme weather or included in National Aviation System delays. In July, 40.71 percent of late flights were delayed by weather -- up 6.54 percent from July 2011, when 38.21 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, and up 35.79 percent from June when 29.98 percent of late flights were delayed by weather. 

Mishandled baggage 

The U.S. carriers reporting flight delays and mishandled baggage data posted a mishandled baggage rate of 3.52 reports per 1,000 passengers in July, compared with July 2011’s rate of 3.72 and June 2012’s rate of 3.35. 

Incidents involving pets 

In July, carriers reported three incidents involving the loss, death or injury of pets while traveling by air; six reports were filed in July 2011 and two reports were filed in June 2012. July’s incidents involved two pet injuries and one lost pet. 

Complaints about airline service 

In July, there were 2,466 complaints about airline service from consumers, up 91.8 percent from the 1,286 complaints filed in July 2011, and up 49.2 percent from the 1,653 received in June 2012. 

Complaints about treatment of disabled passengers 

The report also contains a tabulation of complaints filed with DOT in July against airlines regarding the treatment of passengers with disabilities. The department received a total of 97 disability-related complaints in July compared with 75 complaints filed in July 2011 and 81 in June 2012. 

Complaints about discrimination 

In July, the DOT received 16 complaints alleging discrimination by airlines due to factors other than disability -- such as race, religion, national origin or sex. There were five recorded in July 2011 and 10 in June 2012. 

Consumers may file their complaints in writing with the Aviation Consumer Protection Division, U.S. Department of Transportation, C-75, W96-432, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20590; by voice mail at (202) 366-2220 or by TTY at (202) 366-0511; or on the Web

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.

Story provided by ConsumerAffairs.
Consumer Affairs

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