March 09, 2022

U.S. Air Travel Consumer Report: December 2021, Full Year 2021 Numbers


The U.S. Department of Transportation has released its Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) on airline operational data compiled for the month of December 2021 and the full calendar year 2021 for on-time performance, mishandled baggage, mishandled wheelchairs and scooters, complaints received, and oversales. The ATCR is designed to assist consumers with information on the quality of services provided by airlines.

In 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic continued to result in significant changes to airline schedules and operations. The volume of flights operated in 2021 (6.2 million), although more than 2020, was 78.1% of the volume of flights operated in pre-pandemic 2019 (7.9 million). In 2021, the 10 marketing carriers reported 6.3 million scheduled flights, 78.0% of the 8.1 million scheduled in 2019. The same airlines reported canceling 111,018 flights in 2021, or 1.76% of their schedule, down from 1.90% in 2019.

The 566,465 flights operated in December 2021 were 85.2% of the 672,765 flights operated in pre-pandemic December 2019. Operated flights in December 2021 were up 45.6% year-over-year from the 393,549 flights operated in December 2020 and down 1.2% month-over-month from the 573,134 flights operated in November 2021.

In December 2021, the 10 marketing network carriers reported 580,238 scheduled domestic flights, 13,773 (2.4 %) of which were canceled. In pre-pandemic December 2019, the same airlines reported 679,941 scheduled domestic flights, 7,176 (1.1%) of which were canceled. In November 2021, airlines scheduled 576,693 domestic flights, of which 3,559 (0.6%) were canceled.

Air Travel Consumer Report


Full-Year 2021 On-Time Arrival

Reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 81.1% for 2021, down from an annual on-time arrival rate of 84.5% in 2020 but up from an annual on-time arrival rate of 79.0% in 2019.

Highest Marketing Carrier Annual On-Time Arrival Rates 2021
Hawaiian Airlines – 90.1%
Delta Air Lines Network – 88.2%
Alaska Airlines Network – 83.2%

Lowest Marketing Carrier Annual On-Time Arrival Rates 2021
Allegiant Air – 68.3%
JetBlue Airways – 72.3%
Southwest Airlines– 75.8%

December 2021 On-Time Arrival

In December 2021, reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 76.0%, down from 84.3% in November 2021 and 87.2% in December 2020.

Highest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates December 2021
American Airlines – 82.2%
Delta Air Lines Network – 80.0%
Hawaiian Airlines – 77.3%

Lowest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates December 2021
Allegiant Air – 61.1%
JetBlue Airways – 64.5%
Alaska Airlines Network – 65.6%

Full-Year 2021 Flight Cancellations

In 2021, reporting marketing carriers canceled 1.76% of their scheduled domestic flights, lower than the rate of both 6.0% in 2020 and 1.90% in pre-pandemic 2019. A flight is listed as canceled if it was listed in a carrier’s computer reservation system during the seven calendar days prior to a scheduled departure but was not operated.

Lowest Marketing Carrier Annual Rates of Canceled Flights 2021
Hawaiian Airlines – 0.4%
Delta Air Lines Network – 0.6%
Frontier Airlines – 1.4%

Highest Marketing Carrier Annual Rates of Canceled Flights 2021
Allegiant Air – 3.3%
Spirit Airlines– 3.0%
Southwest Airlines – 2.2%

December 2021 Flight Cancellations

In December 2021, reporting marketing carriers canceled 2.4% of their scheduled domestic flights, higher than the rate of both 0.6% in November 2021 and 1.1% in December 2020.

Lowest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights December 2021
Southwest Airlines – 1.1%
American Airlines Network – 1.1%
Frontier Airlines – 1.6%

Highest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights December 2021
Allegiant Air – 6.3%
Alaska Airlines Network– 5.5%
Spirit Airlines – 4.8%

Tarmac Delays

In December 2021, airlines reported 33 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to 2 tarmac delays reported in November 2021 and 3 tarmac delays reported in December 2020. In December 2021, airlines reported 0 tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, compared to 2 tarmac delays reported in November 2021 and 2 tarmac delays in December 2020.

For all of 2021, airlines reported 155 tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, up from 55 in 2020 and down from 305 in 2019. Also in 2021, airlines reported 33 tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, up from 6 in 2020 and 26 in 2019.

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 to deplane passengers by those times.

Extended tarmac delays are investigated by the Department.

Mishandled Baggage

For the full year 2021, reporting marketing carriers handled nearly 393 million bags, posting a rate of 5.1 mishandled bags per 1,000 checked, which is higher than 2020’s rate of 4.1 and lower than 2019’s rate of 5.9.

In December 2021, reporting marketing carriers handled more than 40 million bags and posted a mishandled baggage rate of 6.6 mishandled bags per 1,000 checked bags, a higher rate than both the November 2021 rate of 4.6 and the December 2020 rate of 4.2.

Mishandled Wheelchairs and Scooters

For the full year 2021, reporting marketing carriers reported checking 532,306 wheelchairs and scooters and mishandling 7,239 for a rate of 1.36% mishandled. That is higher than the rate of 1.29% mishandled in 2020 but lower than the rate of 1.54% mishandled in 2019.

In December 2021, reporting marketing carriers reported checking 50,447 wheelchairs and scooters and mishandling 834 for a rate of 1.65% mishandled wheelchairs and scooters, lower than the rate of 1.73% mishandled in November 2021 but higher than the rate of 1.15% mishandled in December 2020.

Bumping/Oversales

Bumping/oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly.

For the year, the reporting marketing carriers posted an involuntary denied boarding, or bumping rate of 0.17 per 10,000 passengers in 2021. That is higher than the rate of 0.11 in 2020 but lower than the rate of 0.24 in 2019.

For the fourth quarter of 2021, the 10 U.S. reporting marketing carriers posted an involuntary denied boarding, or bumping, rate of 0.23 per 10,000 passengers, higher than the rate of 0.16 in the third quarter of 2021 and the rate of 0.03 in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Incidents Involving Animals

In 2021, carriers reported seven animal deaths, injuries to fourteen other animals, and zero lost animals, for a total of 21 incidents, up from the 10 incident reports filed for calendar year 2020 and up from the 19 incident reports filed for calendar year 2019. In 2021, 256,114 animals were transported by airlines, for a rate of 0.82 incidents per 10,000 animals transported. In 2020, 311,149 animals were transported, for a rate of 0.32 incidents per 10,000 animals transported. In 2019, 404,556 animals were transportation, for a rate of 0.47 incidents per 10,000 animals transported.

In December 2021, carriers reported four incidents involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, up from the one report filed in December 2020, and up from the one report filed in November 2021. The December 2021 incidents involved the death of one animal and injuries to three other animals.

Complaints About Airline Service

In 2021, the Department received 49,958 complaints. This is down 51.29 percent from the 102,560 complaints received in 2020 but up 225.84 percent from the 15,332 complaints received in 2019. Of the 49,958 complaints received in 2021, 29,507 (59%) concerned refunds.

In December 2021, DOT received 4,242 complaints about airline service from consumers, up 19.73 percent from the 3,543 complaints received in November 2021 and up 10.12 percent from 3,852 complaints filed in December 2020.

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 2021, the Department received 1,394 disability complaints, up 157.67 percent from the total of 541 received in 2020 and up 54.03 percent from the 905 received in 2019.

In December 2021, the Department received a total of 180 disability-related complaints, up from the 146 disability-related complaints received in November 2021, and up from the 46 complaints received in December 2020.

Complaints About Discrimination

In 2021, the Department received 132 discrimination complaints – 81 complaints regarding race, 10 complaints regarding ancestry/ethnicity, 13 complaints regarding national origin, six complaints regarding color, nine complaints regarding religion, nine complaints regarding sex, and four complaints categorized as “other.” This is an increase of 169.39 percent from the total of 49 discrimination complaints filed in 2020 and an increase of 23.36 percent from the total of 107 discrimination complaints filed in 2019.

In December 2021, the Department received five complaints alleging discrimination – three complaints regarding race, one complaint regarding ancestry/ethnicity, and one complaint categorized as “other.” This is down from the 17 complaints received in November 2021, and remained the same from the five complaints recorded in December 2020.

Copyright 2022 U.S. Department of Transportation. All rights reserved. From https://www.transportation.gov.

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