The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has just released its Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) for June 2023, providing valuable insights into various aspects of the aviation industry.
This comprehensive report covers on-time performance, baggage handling, wheelchair and scooter handling, and oversales for the first six months of 2023.
Let’s take a look into the key findings and exactly what they mean for air travelers.
Firstly, for the first six months of 2023, only 1.6% of flights were canceled. This is a significant improvement from the 3.2% cancellation rate during the same period last year and the 2.4% rate in the pre-pandemic year of 2019.
The DOT utilizes data from the ATCR, consumer complaints, and other sources to inform its enforcement activities and evaluate the effectiveness of existing rules.
In a clear demonstration of its commitment to consumer protection, the Department has issued historic fines based primarily on consumer complaints.
Since the onset of the pandemic, it has facilitated the return of over $2.5 billion in refunds to travelers.
Moreover, earlier this year, President Biden and Secretary Buttigieg urged airlines to commit to fee-free family seating.
As a result, three airlines have already made such guarantees, and the DOT is working on a rulemaking that would require all airlines to follow suit.
To make it easier for parents to make informed choices, a family seating dashboard was introduced in March 2023, highlighting airlines that guarantee fee-free family seating.
Flight Operations in June 2023
For US air travel in June 2023, a total of 600,721 flights were operated, representing an increase of 2.94% compared to June 2022. However, this figure was down 1.97% from the 612,797 flights operated in May 2023.
Among the ten marketing network carriers, 613,577 scheduled domestic flights were reported in June, with 2.1% of them being canceled.
This is a slight increase compared to May 2023 when 0.6% of domestic flights were canceled. In June 2022, the cancellation rate was higher at 3.1%.
On-Time Arrival Rates
In June 2023, marketing carriers reported an on-time arrival rate of 71.3%, down from 81.2% in May 2023 and 73.5% in June 2022. The year-to-date on-time arrival rate for 2023 stands at 76.5%.
Notable leaders in on-time performance include Alaska Airlines Network (79.4%) and Delta Air Lines Network (77.8%), while Frontier Airlines (53.7%), Spirit Airlines (58.8%), and JetBlue Airways (60.8%) reported lower on-time arrival rates.
June 2023 saw marketing carriers canceling 2.1% of their scheduled domestic flights, a notable increase from the 0.6% rate in May 2023 but still an improvement from June 2022’s 3.1%.
Alaska Airlines Network boasted the lowest rate of canceled flights at 0.3%, while United Airlines Network had the highest rate at 4.5%.
Complaints About Airline Service
The DOT continues to receive a substantial volume of air travel service complaints, which its Office of Aviation Consumer Protection is diligently processing.
Due to the review and processing time required, there have been some delays in releasing consumer complaint data in the ATCR.
It is evident that consumer complaints are not returning to pre-pandemic levels, prompting the Department to explore more efficient ways to handle them.
In June 2023, airlines reported 74 tarmac delays exceeding three hours on domestic flights, a significant increase from the three delays reported in May 2023.
Additionally, there were 14 tarmac delays exceeding four hours on international flights in June 2023, compared to two in May 2023.
Airlines are obligated to ensure passengers have the option to deplane after three hours on domestic flights and four hours on international flights, with exceptions for safety, security, and Air Traffic Control-related reasons.
The DOT conducts investigations into extended tarmac delays to enforce these regulations.
For June 2023, reporting marketing carriers handled a total of 43.4 million bags, with a mishandled baggage rate of 0.70%.
While this rate was higher than May 2023’s 0.51%, it showed improvement from June 2022’s 0.71%. For the first half of 2023, carriers posted a mishandled baggage rate of 0.61%, lower than the 0.63% rate in the same period in 2022.
It’s worth noting that the Department began displaying mishandled baggage data as a percentage per 100 bags enplaned in January 2022, aligning it with the calculation and display of mishandled wheelchairs and scooters rates.
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