PhotoAirlines reported no tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights in August and only one delay of more than four hours on international flights, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Air Travel Consumer Report.

The reported international delay involved an Aug. 15 flight by Caribbean Airlines from New York’s JFK Airport to Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago that was on the tarmac for four hours and 28 minutes prior to takeoff. It's under investigation by the DOT.

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 without giving passengers an opportunity to deplane. 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 exacerbate such situations.

On-time performance

  • The reporting carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 79.1 percent in August, compared with 79.3 percent the same month a year earlier, and 76.0 percent in July.


  • The reporting carriers canceled 1.3 percent of their scheduled domestic flights in August, versus the 2.5 percent cancellation rate posted in August 2011 and July 2012’s cancellation rate of 1.4 percent.

Chronically delayed flights

  • At the end of August, there were 56 flights that were chronically delayed -- more than 30 minutes late more than 50 percent of the time -- for two consecutive months. There were no chronically delayed flights for three consecutive months or more.

Causes of flight delays

  • In August, the carriers reported that 5.26 percent of their flights were delayed by aviation system delays, compared with 6.07 percent in July; 7.68 percent by late-arriving aircraft, versus 9.03 percent in July; 5.79 percent by factors within the airline’s control, such as maintenance or crew problems, compared with 6.32 percent in July; 0.53 percent by extreme weather, as opposed to 0.82 percent in July; and 0.04 percent for security reasons, the same as in July.
  • 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 the 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 collected by BTS also shows 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 August, 32.95 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, down 16.52 percent from August 2011, when 39.47 percent of late flights were delayed by weather, and down 19.06 percent from July when 40.71 percent of late flights were delayed by weather.

Mishandled baggage

  • The U.S. carriers reporting posted a mishandled baggage rate of 3.38 reports per 1,000 passengers in August, falling from both August 2011’s rate of 3.45 and July 2012’s rate of 3.52.

Incidents involving pets

  • In August, carriers reported five incidents involving the loss, death, or injury of pets while traveling by air, the same as August 2011. There were three reports filed in July 2012. August’s incidents involved three pet deaths and two pet injuries.

Complaints about airline service

  • In August, DOT received 1,886 complaints about airline service from consumers, up 33.2 percent from the 1,416 complaints filed in August 2011, but down 23.5 percent from the 2,466 received in July 2012.

Complaints about treatment of disabled passengers

  • The report also contains a tabulation of complaints filed with DOT in August against airlines regarding the treatment of passengers with disabilities. There was a total of 73 disability-related complaints in August, compared with 48 in August 2011, and 97 in July 2012.

Complaints about discrimination

  • In August, there were nine complaints alleging discrimination by airlines due to factors other than disability -- such as race, religion, national origin or sex – versus 12 in August 2011 and 16 in July 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.

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