Apr 3, 2023 - News

RIC's December air travel meltdown

Data: BTS; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios
Data: BTS; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

If you traveled over the holidays and experienced flight delays, you were not alone.

State of play: 74.2% of domestic flights departed Richmond airport on time in December 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Alex Fitzpatrick and Kavya Beheraj report.

  • That's down from 82.6% in November 2022, per recently released data from the department's Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS).

The big picture: Nationally, just 69% of December's flights departed on time.

  • That figure is generally between 75%-80% in a typical month, albeit with predictable dips in the busy — and often meteorologically challenging — summer and winter travel seasons.

Driving the news: The real story in December was, of course, Southwest Airlines' epic meltdown.

  • 61.4% of Southwest flights departed RIC on time in December.
  • Just 57.3% of Southwest's December flights departed on time nationally, compared to 77.2% for Delta Air Lines, 72.5% for American Airlines and 70.7% for United Airlines.
  • Southwest's struggles dragged down the average for all carriers reporting data to BTS.

Yes, but: All indications so far suggest Southwest has recovered nicely since December, though BTS' data reports lag by about three months.

  • The airline has promised to update key systems that exacerbated December's meltdown, as well as better communicate with passengers whose flights are delayed or canceled in the future.

What they're saying: "We spend a lot of money on technology and recently put in a new state-of-the-art maintenance system, a new reservation system and a new human capital workday system," Southwest CEO Bob Jordan told Axios' Eleanor Hawkins.

The bottom line: December was truly just as bad as it seemed, the data shows.


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