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Tarmac Delays Plunge, Cancellations Steady: Success For The DOT’s New Rules

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Tarmac Delays Plunge, Cancellations Steady: Success For The DOT’s New Rules?

Tarmac Delays Down, Cancellations Steady: Success For The DOTThe airlines may be charging an arm and a leg for airfare, but according to a report released by the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics on Tuesday, USA-based airlines did not have a single flight delayed more than three hours in the month of October.

The nation’s 18 biggest airlines reported no flights with delays longer than three hours in the tenth month of the year.

A year ago, 11 flights were delayed for more than three hours during the same time period.


The good behavior on the part of the airlines likely has a lot to do with a stringent new rule imposed by the DOT in April. The rule put heavy penalties on airlines that had tarmac waits of more than three hours, charging $27,500 per passenger for a flight over the time limit.

The rule was met with strong resistance from the airline industry, which threatened to cancel flights rather than risk fines.

Learn more about the threats and the initial implementation of the new rules: New DOT Rules: Tarmac Delays Down, Cancellations Up

However, a little more than half a year later, the cancellation rate has remained steady. In October, only 0.97 percent of all flights were canceled or around 5,275 out of 545,500 total national flights. In fact, the cancellation rate was down compared to last year, when 0.99 percent of flights were canceled in October.

American air traffic control - Lookin' GoodSince the rule was implemented, only 12 flights have had tarmac delays of more than three hours, a big improvement over last year, when 546 flights where delayed during the same six months in 2009.

Not only have ground delays decreased, but also the on-time performance of the airlines improved in the month of October. Around 84 percent of all flights during the month arrived within 15 minutes of their scheduled arrival, up 77.3 percent when compared to 2009.

Many of these delays that did occur were weather-related, said the DOT.

The best performers of the bunch included Hawaiian Airlines, AirTran Airways and United Airlines. The worst on-time performer was JetBlue, which faces perennial delays at its JFK International hub.

Want to learn more about the people who keep our air travel system humming? Check out What Does It Take To Be An Air Traffic Controller?

A big shocker in October’s report was that Southwest Airlines, which had been an industry leader in on-time arrivals, found itself in eighth place after being in second place only a year ago.

Southwest was the only airline not to improve in the six-month period, and as a result has lost most of its bragging rights as a perennially on-time carrier.

Experts blame Southwest’s crumbling record on the company’s expansion into congested airports such as New York’s LaGuardia, San Francisco International, and Newark’s Liberty International.

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