Regulators Gauge US Flight Delays as More Common, Lengthy

WASHINGTON (CN) — Airline passengers flying around the U.S. experienced more and longer flight delays in 2019 than the year prior, according to a new government study.

“In 2019, airlines reported 302 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, an increase from the 202 such tarmac delays reported in 2018,” the Department of Transportation reported Wednesday, noting that airlines reported 26 tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, up from 61 such tarmac delays in 2018.

A man reviews plane departure times on a flight information board at San Francisco International Airport in 2019. Airline travelers were a bit more likely to be delayed, and more often for longer spells, when flying around the U.S. last year, according to a government report issued Wednesday. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

As for domestic flights, 79% arrived within 15 minutes of the airline’s schedule, making them on time. This is slightly less than the 79.2% of on time flights in 2018.

Hawaiian Airlines was on time most frequently, at 87.7%, thanks to the island’s favorable weather. Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines ranked second and third, operating on time 83.5% and 81.3% of the time, respectively.

The least punctual airlines were United, JetBlue and Frontier Airlines, which correspondingly were on time 75.2%, 73.5% and 73.1% of the time.

The 72-page report found a slight uptick in canceled flights: from 1.7% of scheduled domestic flights in 2018 to 1.9% of flights in 2019.

American, Southwest and United Airlines had the highest flight-cancellation rates. In March 2019 all three airlines had to pull Boeing 737 Max jets from their bullpens due to two deadly crashes that occurred flying this model. No other carriers operate Boeing 737 planes.

The Transportation Department also reported an increase in the number of bumped passengers, putting the rate in 2019 at 0.24 per 10,000 passengers, “compared to a rate of 0.14 per 10,000 passengers in 2018.”

Tallying the number of complaints filed with its office, the department counted a slight decrease in 2019. Southwest had the lowest number of complaints while Spirit had the highest. Common issues of complaint included flight problems, customer service, disability discrimination and flights that were oversold.

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