The U.S. Department of Transportation last week released its September 2021 Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) on airline operational data compiled for the month of July 2021. The ATCR is designed to assist consumers with information on the quality of services provided by airlines.
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in significant changes to airline schedules and operations in July 2021 although airlines scheduled and operated more flights in July 2021 than any month since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
The total number of flights operated in July 2021 reached 86% of pre-pandemic levels with 605,508 flights operated in July 2021 compared with 702,876 flights operated in July 2019. Flights operated in July 2021 were 65% more than the 367,933 flights operated in July 2020.
In July 2021, the 10 marketing network carriers reported 615,703 scheduled domestic flights, 10,195 (1.7%) of which were canceled, and 605,508 (98.3%) of which were operated. In July 2020, the same airlines reported 370,859 scheduled domestic flights, 2,926 (0.8%) of which were canceled, and 367,933 (99.2%) of which were operated. In pre-pandemic July 2019, airlines reported 717,684 scheduled domestic flights, 14,808 (2.1%) of which were canceled, and 702,876 (97.9%) of which were operated.
When compared to the 9,196 flights canceled and 564,583 flights operated in June 2021, July 2021 saw an increase of 11% in flight cancellations and a 7.2% increase in flights operated.
July On-Time Performance
In July 2021, reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 73.4%, down from both 74.5% in June 2021 and 90.5% in July 2020.
Highest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates July 2021 (ATCR Table 1)
- Hawaiian Airlines – 88.2%
- Delta Air Lines Network – 84.9%
- Alaska Airlines Network – 83.2%
Lowest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates July 2021 (ATCR Table 1)
- Allegiant Air – 51.9%
- JetBlue Airways – 55.7%
- Frontier Airlines – 60.0%
In July 2021, reporting marketing carriers canceled 1.7% of their scheduled domestic flights, compared to the rate of 1.6% in June 2021 and 0.8% in July 2020.
Lowest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights July 2021 (ATCR Table 6)
- Hawaiian Airlines – 0.2%
- Delta Air Lines Network – 0.3%
- Alaska Airlines Network – 0.8%
Highest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights July 2021 (ATCR Table 6)
- Allegiant Air – 5.8%
- Frontier Airlines – 3.4%
- JetBlue Airways – 2.6%
In July 2021, airlines reported 40 tarmac delay of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to 11 tarmac delays reported in June 2021 and 39 tarmac delays reported in July 2020. In July 2021, airlines reported 0 tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, compared to 1 tarmac delay reported in June 2021 and no tarmac delays in July 2020.
Airlines are required to have and adhere to assurances that they will not allow aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours for domestic flights and four hours for international flights without providing passengers the option to deplane, subject to exceptions related to safety, security, and Air Traffic Control related reasons. An exception also exists for departure delays if the airline begins to return the aircraft to a suitable disembarkation point in order to deplane passengers by those times. Extended tarmac delays are investigated by the Department.
In July 2021, the reporting marketing carriers posted a mishandled baggage rate of 5.9 mishandled bags per 1,000 checked bags, a lower rate than the June 2021 rate of 6.13 per 1,000 checked bags and higher than the July 2020 rate of 3.24 per 1,000 checked bags.
Mishandled Wheelchairs and Scooters
In July 2021, reporting marketing airlines reported checking 58,720 wheelchairs and scooters and mishandling 834, a rate of 1.42% mishandled, higher than both the rate of 1.3% mishandled in June 2021 and the rate of 1.17% mishandled in July 2020. In July 2020, the airlines checked 16,185 wheelchairs and scooters, mishandling 189.
Bumping/oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly. For the second quarter of 2021, the 10 U.S. reporting marketing carriers posted an involuntary denied boarding, or bumping, rate of 0.17 per 10,000 passengers, higher than the rate of 0.08 in the first quarter of 2021 and the rate of 0.15 in the second quarter of 2020.
For the first six months of 2021, the marketing carriers posted a bumping rate of 0.14 per 10,000 passengers, a higher rate than the 0.12 rate for the same period last year.
Incidents Involving Animals
In July 2021, carriers reported three incidents involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, up from the zero reports filed in both June 2021 and in July 2020. July’s incidents involved the death of one animal and injuries to two other animals.
Complaints About Airline Service
In July 2021, DOT received 5,058 complaints about airline service from consumers, up 21.1% from the 4,176 received in June 2021, and down 54.5% from the total of 11,125 filed in July 2020. Of the 5,058 complaints received in July 2021, 2,325 (46.0%) were against U.S. carriers, 2,014 (39.8%) were against foreign air carriers, and 716 (14.2%) were against travel companies. Also, of the 5,058 complaints received, 2,543 (50.3%) concerned refunds.
The Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection continues to communicate with airlines and travel companies that receive refund complaints to ensure compliance with the refund requirements. Many passengers who had initially been denied refunds have received the required refunds. The Department has taken and will take enforcement action against noncompliant airlines and ticket agents as necessary.
Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers
In July 2021, the Department received a total of 140 disability-related complaints, up from both the 139 complaints received in June 2021 and the 50 complaints received in July 2020.
Complaints About Discrimination
In July 2021, the Department received 18 complaints alleging discrimination – nine complaints regarding race, two complaints regarding ancestry/ethnicity, three complaints regarding national origin, three complaints regarding religion, and one complaint regarding sexual discrimination. This is up from both the 12 complaints received in June 2021 and the six complaints received in July 2020.