Wed. Sep 28th, 2022

Last week, in a letter to airline CEOS, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced that the Department of Transportation (DOT) will launch a dashboard to help customers determine what they are owed if a flight is delayed or canceled. The new tool on the DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection website is slated to launch by Friday, September 2, just as Labor Day weekend kicks off.

For travelers, a consumer-focused tool focused on transparency can’t come soon enough.

On Sunday, airports around the world tallied more than 21,000 flight delays, according to FlightAware tracking data. More than a third of those delays occurred in the United States, where 26 major airports saw at least 20% of their flights delayed. That’s a remarkable number, even in a hellish summer marked by airport chaos and flight disruptions.

The worst offender yesterday was Denver International Airport, where a whopping 44% of all flights departed late. Delays topped 30% at nine other U.S. airports.

Sunday was a particularly bad day for on-time flights across the U.S. airlines. JetBlue saw 41% of its flights delayed; for Southwest, it was 40%; for Frontier, 38%; Allegiant saw 35% of its flights delayed. Among the legacy carriers, 30% of United flights ran late, compared to 27% for American. Delta looked practically heroic with a “mere” 20% of its flights delayed, per FlightAware.

Monday is looking like more of the same. Even before 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time, departure boards were already logging more than 8,000 delays around the world and nearly 2,000 in the U.S. If recent history is any indicator, those numbers could triple by day’s end.

Consider that, in the first half of the year, US. carriers canceled 3.2% and delayed 24% of domestic flights, according to DOT data.

Yet throughout this mess, many travelers still don’t know their rights as flyers. The DOT’s new dashboard aims to clearly show consumers what each airline carrier offers in the event of a delay or cancellation.

A recent Forbes Advisor survey of 2,000 travelers revealed that 61% of respondents experienced flight disruptions this summer.

Buttigieg would like to see a universal minimum threshold of compensation in cases like those. “The department asks that airlines, at a minimum, provide meal vouchers for delays of three hours or more and lodging accommodations for passengers who must wait overnight at an airport because of disruptions within the carrier’s control,” Buttigieg wrote to the airline chiefs.

Faced with ongoing staffing shortages, airlines have been thinning out their flight schedules. Between May and June, the 11 major U.S. airlines trimmed their July schedules by 19,000 flights, according to Cirium, an aviation data company. Notably, the company found that the chopping was very uneven. Some airlines, like Allegiant, trimmed some 17% of their schedule, while others, like JetBlue and Delta, cut only 5%.

Looking ahead to fall and the holiday season, travel entities are already downscaling capacity, signaling that they expect more disruptions ahead.

Two notable cases in point: London’s Heathrow Airport has extended its limits on daily passengers through late October. And last week, American Airlines cut 31,000 flights, or about 16%, from its November schedule, according to Cirium data. That’s a massive number on top of the 19,000 flights the Texas-based carrier has already cut this year.

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