Airline issues leading cause for flight delays, federal data shows
Most flight delays in recent years have been caused by issues within the control of airlines, updated federal data shows.
Why it matters: The data released from the U.S. Department of Transportation contextualizes months of tensions between the department and the airline industry over recent travel headaches and a looming summer travel season that's expected to be hectic.
- The friction came to a head earlier this week when the Biden administration proposed a rule change that would require airlines to compensate travelers and cover some of their expenses if the airlines are responsible for flight cancellations or significant delays.
- The airline industry has opposed the proposal, with the International Air Transport Association arguing that it would raise air travel costs while doing little to address delays.
By the numbers: Flights were collectively delayed for more than 5.3 million hours between January 2019 and February 2023, according to Department of Transportation data.
- 1.6 million flights, 5.8% of all flights, were delayed because of circumstances within an airline's control, like maintenance and crew problems, aircraft cleaning and baggage loading.
- Delays caused by issues within the national aviation system, like the computer system outage in January 2023, delayed 1.3 million flights, or 4.7% of all flights in that time period.
- 1.5 million (5.7%) of flights were delayed by an inbound aircraft arriving late, though the data does not state the reason for the late arrival.
- Bad weather only delayed around 178,000 (0.65%) flights.
- Over 776,000 planned flights (2.8%) were canceled, while more than 63,000 (0.2%) were diverted, though the data did not specify the causes that led to the changes.
Yes but: Over those 50 months, 21.9 million flights (79.8%) arrived on time, which was in line with on-time arrival statistics over the previous decade.
The big picture: Compared to data from January 2009 through December 2018, the FAA has been responsible for fewer flight disruptions in recent years.
- Delays as a result of national airspace system disruptions fell by a percentage point from 5.7% to 4.7%.
- Comparing those same two timeframes, delays from air carrier issues slightly rose from 5.3% to 5.8%.
Go deeper: Why airline flyers are fuming