US DOT releases May 2023 Air Travel Consumer Report

A crowd of passengers at the security area in Denver International Airport.
Famartin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has released its Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) on airline operational data compiled for the month of May 2023.

The ATCR is designed to assist consumers with information on the quality of services provided by airlines.

DOT releases its Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) every month, providing valuable insights into airline operational data.

In this article, we’ll delve into the key highlights from the May 2023 ATCR, shedding light on on-time performance, mishandled baggage, and passenger protection measures.

On-Time Performance

When it comes to air travel, punctuality is paramount. In May 2023, the ATCR revealed that airline cancellations stood at a commendable 0.6%, a significant improvement from the 2% cancellation rate recorded in May 2022.

What’s even more remarkable is that cancellations for the first five months of 2023 have consistently stayed below 2%, demonstrating a positive trend compared to the 2.7% rate of the previous year and the pre-pandemic 2019 figures.

These statistics emphasize that airlines are increasingly delivering on their promises to keep flights on schedule.


Consumer Complaints Drive Change

DOT recognizes the power of passenger feedback. Last year, fueled by customer complaints, DOT issued record fines through its consumer protection office. These fines, totaling over $2.5 billion, were instrumental in holding airlines accountable for their service quality.

Moreover, DOT has been actively working on enhancing consumer protections through rulemakings and other initiatives.

The Airline Customer Service Dashboard, for instance, now guarantees meals, free rebooking on the same airline, and even hotel accommodations from the ten largest U.S. airlines.

Additionally, the FlightRights.Gov platform highlights which airlines provide compensation or travel credits when they cause flight delays or cancellations.

In a significant move, DOT has announced plans to launch a new rulemaking. This rulemaking would make it mandatory for airlines, both U.S. and foreign, to provide compensation and cover expenses for amenities such as meals, hotels, and rebooking when they are responsible for stranding passengers.

Fee-Free Family Seating

Family travel is a significant concern for many passengers, and DOT is addressing this issue head-on. President Biden and Secretary Buttigieg have pushed airlines to commit to fee-free family seating, resulting in three airlines guaranteeing this service.

DOT is further pursuing a rulemaking that would require all airlines to provide fee-free family seating.

To assist consumers, DOT has rolled out a family seating dashboard, making it easier for parents to choose airlines that offer fee-free family seating.

Flight Operations and On-Time Arrival

In May 2023, there were 612,797 flights operated, showing a significant increase of 3.70% compared to May 2022.

Additionally, the on-time arrival rate for May 2023 reached 81.2%, a notable improvement from both April 2023 (75.7%) and May 2022 (77.2%).

Standout Airlines

A Delta Air Lines 737-800 parked at Atlanta.
formulanone from Huntsville, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In the realm of on-time arrival rates, some airlines stood out. Delta Air Lines Network topped the list with an impressive 88.8% on-time arrival rate, followed closely by Alaska Airlines Network (83.9%) and American Airlines Network (82.8%).

Conversely, Hawaiian Airlines (61.3%), Frontier Airlines (66.7%), and Spirit Airlines (73.8%) recorded lower on-time arrival rates.

Minimal Flight Cancellations

May 2023 witnessed a low flight cancellation rate of 0.6% for reporting marketing carriers, demonstrating improved operational reliability compared to April 2023 (1.7%) and May 2022 (2.0%).

Allegiant Air (0.2%), Alaska Airlines Network (0.3%), and Delta Air Lines (0.4%) had the lowest cancellation rates.

Hawaiian Airlines (2.6%), Frontier Airlines (1.3%), and United Airlines Network (1.2%) faced higher cancellation rates.

Addressing Passenger Complaints

DOT acknowledges the surge in passenger complaints about airline services. The Office of Aviation Consumer Protection is diligently processing these complaints.

The release of consumer complaint data in the ATCR has faced delays due to the thorough review and processing required. DOT is actively working on streamlining this process to provide more timely insights.

Tarmac Delays Decrease

In May 2023, airlines reported fewer tarmac delays, with only three exceeding three hours on domestic flights and two exceeding four hours on international flights.

This is a significant improvement from the 18 tarmac delays on domestic flights and three on international flights reported in April 2023.

Airlines are mandated to adhere to assurances preventing extended tarmac delays, except for safety, security, and Air Traffic Control reasons. DOT investigates any extended tarmac delays to ensure passenger well-being.

Improved Baggage Handling

In May 2023, reporting marketing carriers posted a mishandled baggage rate of 0.51%, indicating more reliable baggage handling compared to April 2023 (0.55%) and May 2022 (0.56%).

A full copy of the US DOT’s May 2023 Air Travel Consumer Report can be found here.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 6 Min Read
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