March 06, 2024

Stronger On-Time Performance and Lower Cancelation Rates Highlight US Aviation in 2023

Data comes from the DOT's report that was released today.


  • Better on-time performance in 2023 with 78.34% of flights arriving on time, up from 76.72% in 2022.
  • December 2023 saw a decrease in flight cancelations at just 0.4%, lower than the winter of 2022.
  • Mishandled baggage rates dropped in 2023 to 0.58%, a significant improvement from the 0.64% in 2022.

According to the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), 2023 was a strong year for commercial aviation, from on-time performance to mishandled baggage.

Improving in 2023

Earlier today, the DOT released its Air Travel Consumer Report for December and full-year 2023, highlighting a solid year with even higher passenger traffic than 2022. For several years, aviation worldwide has been recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, which ravaged the industry. 2023 proved to be a stronger year than 2022, as many expected and hoped.

The beginning of 2023 was marked by a major meltdown at Southwest Airlines, which saw more than 20,000 flight cancelations during a short period around Christmas and the New Year holidays. Despite this, flight cancelations among the 10 largest airlines in 2023 decreased from 2.71% in 2022 to 1.29%. 2023's rate was even lower than 2019, during which 1.9% of flights were canceled. Because of the meltdown, the DOT slapped Southwest with a $140 million penalty, in addition to $600 million that Southwest was forced to refund to its passengers. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the DOT has ensured that more than $3 billion has been returned to airline passengers.

In the announcement, the DOT highlighted the creation of its consumer rights dashboard, which was made available in September 2022 and outlines what each airline will and will not cover in the event of flight delays and cancelations. The creation of the dashboard made it easy for passengers to know what to expect, whereas before, it seemed like a wild circus. After pressure from the DOT, ten airlines said they would guarantee free meals and rebooking on the same carrier, while nine will pay for hotels.

On-time performance, cancelation, and mishandled baggage

On-time performance, though worse than in November, was still drastically better than in December 2022. In that month, only 69% of flights arrived on time in the US, rising to 83.9% in December 2023, 2.4% lower than in November. According to data, Delta Air Lines had the best on-time performance, with 89.3% of its flights arriving on time, compared to JetBlue's 71.4%, the lowest of all airlines. For the full year, 78.34% of flights arrived on time, compared to 76.72% in 2022.

As mentioned above, cancelation rates for the full year decreased significantly. With many airline hubs located in cities affected by winter storms, winter cancelation rates always increase, but December 2023 was much better than 2022. The report says that in the last month of 2022, airlines canceled 5.4% of flights, but only 0.4% in 2023. American Airlines had the lowest cancelation rate at just 0.1%, while Hawaiian Airlines had the highest at 1.5%.

Mishandled baggage, contrary to what many may think, does not occur frequently. In December alone, airlines handled more than 43 million bags and only mishandled 0.5%, dropping from 1.09% in 2022. In all of 2023, 0.58% of bags were mishandled, compared to 0.64% in 2022.

Copyright 2024 Simple Flying. All rights reserved. From By Lukas Souza.

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