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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Air Travel Consumer Report: March 2021 Numbers

Friday, May 21, 2021

Release Number: DOT 21-21
Contact: pressoffice@dot.gov

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation today released its May 2021 Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) on airline operational data compiled for the month of March 2021.  The ATCR is designed to assist consumers with information on the quality of services provided by airlines.  The ATCR and other aviation consumer matters of interest to the public can be found at http://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer.  

The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted in significant changes to airline schedules and operations in March 2021, although airlines scheduled and operated the most flights in March 2021 than any month since March 2020.

March 2021 saw a decrease in flight cancellations compared to the prior month and an overall increase in flights operated. The total number of flights operated have not rebounded to pre-pandemic levels but have increased significantly since the all-time monthly low of 180,151 flights in May 2020. In March 2021, the 10 marketing network carriers reported 467,126 scheduled domestic flights, 5,904 (1.3%) of which were canceled, and 461,222 of which were operated. In February 2021, airlines reported 350,170 scheduled domestic flights, 20,201 (5.8%) of which were canceled, and 329,969 of which were operated. In March 2020, airlines reported 701,274 scheduled domestic flights, 118,276 (16.9%) of which were canceled, and 582,998 of which were operated.

March On-Time Performance

In March 2021, reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 88.5%, up from both 80.1% in February 2021 and 74.7% in March 2020.

Highest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates March 2021 (ATCR Table 1)

  1. Delta Air Lines Network – 93.1%
  2. American Airlines Network – 88.6%
  3. Hawaiian Airlines – 88.2%

Lowest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates March 2021 (ATCR Table 1)

  1. Allegiant Air – 82.1%
  2. Frontier Airlines – 84.1%
  3. Spirit Airlines – 84.9%

March Cancellations

In March 2021, reporting marketing carriers canceled 1.3% of their scheduled domestic flights, a lower rate than 5.8% in February 2021 and 16.9% in March 2020.

Lowest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights March 2021 (ATCR Table 6)

  1. Delta Air Lines Network – 0.2%
  2. Hawaiian Airlines – 0.2%
  3. Spirit Airlines – 0.4%

Highest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights March 2021 (ATCR Table 6)

  1. Frontier Airlines – 3.0%
  2. United Airlines Network – 2.8%
  3. Southwest Airlines – 2.2%

Tarmac Delays

In March 2021, airlines reported one tarmac delay of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to 10 tarmac delays reported in February 2021 and one tarmac delay reported in March 2020. In March 2021, airlines reported no tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, compared to no tarmac delays reported in February 2021 and no tarmac delays in March 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. Extended tarmac delays are investigated by the Department.

Mishandled Baggage

In March 2021, the reporting marketing carriers posted a mishandled baggage rate of 3.58 mishandled bags per 1,000 checked bags, a lower rate than both the February 2021 rate of 4.85 per 1,000 checked bags and the March 2020 rate of 4.41 per 1,000 checked bags.

Mishandled Wheelchairs and Scooters

In March 2021, reporting marketing airlines reported checking 27,695 wheelchairs and scooters and mishandling 310, a rate of 1.12% mishandled, lower than both the rate of 1.30% mishandled in February 2021 and 1.28% in March 2020. In March 2020, the airlines checked 32,692 wheelchairs and scooters, mishandling 418.

Bumping/Oversales

Bumping/oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly. For the first quarter of 2021, the 10 U.S. marketing carriers posted an involuntary denied boarding, or bumping, rate of 0.08 per 10,000 passengers, up from the marketing carrier rate of 0.03 for the fourth quarter of 2020 but down from the rate of 0.11 in the first quarter of 2020.

Incidents Involving Animals

In March 2021, carriers reported no incidents involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, equal to the zero reports filed in February 2021 and down from the one report filed in March 2020.

Complaints About Airline Service

In March 2021, DOT received 3,831 complaints about airline service from consumers, up 15.6% from the 3,313 received in February 2021, but down 24.6% from the total of 5,082 filed in March 2020. Of the 3,831 complaints received in March 2021, 1,065 (28%) were against U.S. carriers, 2,059 (54%) were against foreign air carriers, and 703 (18%) were against travel companies. Also, of the 3,831 complaints received, 2,881 (75.2%) concerned refunds.

For the first quarter of this year, the Department received 11,115 complaints, up 46.6% from the 7,583 filed during the first quarter of 2020.

The Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection continues to communicate with airlines and travel companies that received a large number of refund complaints to ensure compliance with the refund requirements. Many passengers who had initially been denied refunds have received the required refunds. The Department will take enforcement action against noncompliant airlines and ticket agents as necessary.

Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers

In March 2021, the Department received a total of 49 disability-related complaints, up from both the 32 complaints received in February 2021 and the 34 complaints received in March 2020.

For the first quarter of this year, the Department received 117 disability-related complaints, down from the total of 176 filed during the first quarter of 2020.

The Air Carrier Access Act and the Department’s implementing regulation prohibit discrimination by airlines against individuals on the basis of disability. All complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of disability are investigated by the Department.

Complaints About Discrimination

In March 2021, the Department received 11 complaints alleging discrimination – eight complaints regarding race, one complaint regarding national origin, one complaint regarding religion, and one complaint categorized as “other.” This is up from the six complaints received in both February 2021 and in March 2020.

For the first quarter of this year, the Department received 23 discrimination complaints – 15 complaints regarding race, one complaint regarding national origin, one complaint regarding color, two complaints regarding religion, three complaints regarding sexual discrimination, and one complaint categorized as “other.” This is equal to the total of 23 filed during the first quarter of 2020.

Federal law prohibits discrimination in air transportation by airlines on the basis of a person’s race, color, national origin, religion, ancestry, or sex. The Department investigates all complaints that it receives alleging discrimination.

Consumers may file air travel consumer or civil rights complaints online at http://airconsumer.dot.gov/escomplaint/ConsumerForm.cfm or by voicemail at (202) 366-2220, or they may mail a complaint to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division, U.S. Department of Transportation, C-75, W96-432, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20590.

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