United States General Accounting Office . Report to Congressional Requesters dA0 June 1990 AIRLINE SCHEDULING Airlines’ On-Time Performance GAO/RCED-90-154 United States GAO General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20548 Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division B-1971 19 June 151990 The Honorable Glenn M. Anderson Chairman, Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight Committee on Public Works and Transportation House of Representatives The Honorable William F. Clinger, Jr. Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight Committee on Public Works and Transportation House of Representatives As requested in your letter of March 2,1989, and as agreed in subse- quent discussions with your offices, we assessed whether (1) airlines had increased scheduled flight time to keep reported delays at a min- imum in response to the Department of Transportation’s (nor) on-time performance reporting requirement and (2) nor verifies that flights omitted from the on-time data because of mechanical problems have in fact experienced mechanical problems. To address these issues, we interviewed nor, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and airline industry officials, and analyzed statistical data maintained by nor on airlines’ on-time performance. Airlines have adjusted the amount of time they schedule for flights to Results in Brief develop schedules that are as short as possible yet still allow flights to be on t&e. However, the airlines’ on-time performance, on average, has not improved since the reporting requirement began in September 1987. In addition, while airlines are permitted to exclude flights with mechan- ical problems from the on-time data, nor does not verify that these flights experienced mechanical problems. Specifically, we found the folIowing: . Airlines adjusted scheduled flight time and made other changes to streamline flight operations and improve on-time performance. A flight is considered “on time” if it departs from or arrives at the gate within 15 minutes of its schedule. However, on the basis of the l&minute crite- rion, there is no clear trend toward improved on-time performance for Page 1 GAO/RCEXM@lM Airlines’ On-Time Performance Is197119 the reporting airlines. Since the reporting requirement began in Sep- tember 1987, the airlines’ average monthly on-time performance has fluctuated, ranging from a low of about 66 percent to a high of about 86 percent. Generally, the percentage of on-time flights declines during the winter months when poor weather interferes with scheduled departures and arrivals. Airline industry and government officials agree that poor weather is the principal reason for late flights. In 1988, about 80 percent of flights arrived on time. In 1989, slightly more than 76 percent of the flights arrived on time. 9 DOTmonitors the number of flights excluded from the on-time perform- ance data for mechanical problems, but does not verify that these flights had mechanical problems. Flights delayed or canceled because of mechanical problems are not required to be reported to nur in the on- time data, but the mechanical problems must be reported to FAA. How- ever, FAA does not record the mechanical problem data in a way that allows nor to crosscheck the information. According to nor’s on-time statistics, about 5 percent of all scheduled flights, or an average of over 23,000 flights per month, are excluded from the on-time data because of mechanical problems. nor’s investigation of airline scheduling practices during 1986 and 1987 Background resulted in the on-time reporting requirement. At that time, bcrr found that airlines often scheduled unrealistic flying times because the com- puterized reservation systems used by travel agents gave priority list- ings to flights with the shortest elapsed time. Travel agents usually book passengers on one of the flights that appear on the first few display screens of a reservation system. Flights with longer scheduled elapsed times would appear on subsequent screens and agents would be less likely to book these flights. nor officials concluded that unrealistic scheduling was an unfair and deceptive trade practice. In August 1987, they obtained a commitment from the computerized reservation system vendors to stop listing flights in the order of scheduled elapsed times. This eliminated an incentive for airlines to underestimate flight times. In September 1987, nor began recording the on-time performance of U.S. airlines to provide consumers with information on airline flight timeli- ness. DOTrequires the largest U.S. airlines-those having more than 1 percent of total domestic scheduled-service passenger revenues-to report departure and arrival data for each non-stop flight on a monthly P8ge 2 GAO/%CEB9@154 Alrllnea’ On-Time Perfo-ce B-197119 basis.’ Each flight is identified by airline, flight number, and route (line of travel between the flight’s origin and destination). For example, Trans World Airlines’ flight 0012 between Boston and Los Angeles, via St. Louis, is counted as 2 separate flight operations, one from Boston to St. Louis and another from St. Louis to Los Angeles (TW/0012/BOSSTL and TW/OO12/STLLAX). DOT’SOffices of Economics and Aviation Infor- mation Management jointly receive, compile, and monitor the airlines’ flight delay data. D&S Office of Consumer Affairs issues a monthly report, the “Air Travel Consumer Report,” showing each airline’s performance. In reporting to D(JT,airlines are allowed to exclude flights experiencing mechanical problems from the on-time data to ensure that airlines do not operate unsafe planes for the sake of maintaining a good on-time performance record. Flights canceled for reasons other than mechanical problems, such as poor weather conditions or lack of flight crew, are included and counted as late in calculating on-time statistics. Even though DOTranks the airlines according to their on-time performance. it has not established a required level of performance. To improve on-time performance, airlines adjusted scheduled time and Airlines Adjusted streamlined flight operations, according to MJTand airline officials. Flight Schedulesand However, the data do not show a trend toward better on-time perform- ante, based on the 15-minute criterion. Airline officials claim that Operations to Improve weather and air traffic control system problems are the main reasons On-Time Performance why flights are not always on time. Each airline’s monthly on-time per- formance, based on the 15minute criterion, is provided in appendix I. On-Time Performance The on-time statistics show that airlines’ performance has fluctuated from month to month. On-time performance was lowest in December Fluctuates 1987, when 66 percent of flights were on time. The highest performance was achieved in September 1988, when about 86 percent of the flights arrived on time. As shown in figure 1, flights have arrived on time over 70 percent of the time since February 1988, but on-time performance generally was lower in 1989 than in 1988. ‘These airlimes, currently 12, account for about 90 percent of domestic operating revenues .& required by 14 C.F.R. part 234, the airlines must report non-stop flights operating to and from I hv largest U.S. airports-those with at least 1 percent of total domestic scheduled-serwce pawwwr enplanements (currently 29). However, all 12 airlines have voluntarily provided data for thrlr mtm domestic systems. Page 3 GAO/RCEB9@154 Airlines On-Time Prrfornwwe B197119 -- Figure 1: Airlines’ On-Time Performance - . _,,,. .- 100 Pofeml - 1987 111. 198s - 1989 Source. DOT’s Air Travel Consumer Reports. On-time performance tends to decline during the winter months when poor weather interferes with scheduled departures and arrivals. For example, between November 1987 and March 1988,66 to 79 percent of the flights arrived on time, while from April 1988 through October 1988, 82 to 86 percent arrived on time. On-time performance then generally declined during the winter months, November 1988 through March 1989, when 72 to 78 percent of the flights arrived on time. In the subse- quent months, through October 1989, on-time performance rates were generally higher but did not improve to the levels of the preceding April- October period. Part of the explanation for the poorer performance can be attributed to factors beyond the airlines’ control. For example, in June 1989, unusu- ally heavy rains on the East Coast caused delays at airports in the East that affected traffic throughout the nation. Flights arrived on time only 72 percent of the time during June 1989, compared with 84 percent in June 1988. Also, pilots for one of the nation’s largest airlines, Cmted Airlines, decided to slow down flights during the summer of 1989 as Page 4 GAO/ltCEDSElM Airlines’ On-Tlmr Prrhmance 8197119 part of a labor dispute with the airline’s management. United’s on-time performance for the 1989 summer months (June-August) averaged just over 60 percent, compared with about 81 percent for the summer of 1988. According to DCJT, the United pilots’ action caused the flights of other airlines to be delayed as well. Industry and government officials agree that poor weather is the prin- cipal reason for late flights. Airline officials also claim that airport con- gestion is a major cause of flight delays, but WT and FAA officials, while acknowledging that congestion contributes to some delays, characterized it as a secondary factor. Airlines Have Adjusted When on-time performance reporting began, some airlines simply added time to their flight schedules to improve on-time performance. However, Scheduled Flight Times increasing the scheduled flight times also increased the airlines’ oper- ating costs, since flight crews are paid according to scheduled, not actual, flight time. Also, by increasing the scheduled tihe for each flight, fewer flights could be scheduled for an aircraft. Therefore, airlines adjusted schedules to be as short as possible yet still allow the flights to arrive on time, according to airline officials. Rather than simply adding more time, some airlines tried to improve on-time performance by shifting frequently late flights to less-congested time slots, streamlining baggage handling, and reducing the time required to fuel and prepare their aircraft. The airline industry has not set an on-time performance standard. but airline officials told us that public awareness of on-time performance provides incentive to do as well as possible. Airlines with relatively good on-time performance records often publicize their standing in their advertisements. In deciding how much time to allow for a flight. the air- lines use past experience and historical trends and schedule different amounts of time for flights covering the same route depending on the time of year and on expected airport congestion. However, m and F.u officials noted that airlines schedule their flights assuming the most favorable flying conditions. DUFSon-time statistics indicate whether flights are completed within the 15-minute criterion, but do not show how late the flight was. Consumers cannot distinguish between flights that are moderately late and those that are severely late. Also, m does not assess the data to determme whether the amount of scheduled time has increased over time in an attempt to improve on-time performance. We found that for a sampltl of Page 5 GAO/RCEDS@l54 Airlines’ On-Time Performance 5197119 over 200 non-stop flights during October 1987, 1988, and 1989 airlines added and reduced scheduled time for the same flights. However, we found no relationship between changes in the amount of time allowed to complete a flight and on-time performance, and longer flight times did not always result in better on-time performance. nor’s Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs recently reviewed the on-time performance data and recommended that more use be made of the performance data. For example, the information could be used to identify unrealistic peak-period flight schedules, congestion pat- terns at hub airports, and flights that are repeatedly late or canceled. On February 28, 1990, the Secretary of Transportation adopted this recom- mendation and directed DOT’SOffices of Economics and Aviation Infor- mation Management to develop computer programs and techniques to further analyze the on-time data. As part of this analysis, DOTplans to assess how late flights are and whether scheduled flight times have increased since the on-time reporting began. Offices of Economics and Aviation Information Management mon- DOI’ Monitors On-Time itor the on-time performance data the airlines submit each month, but Data but Does Not do not routinely verify that flights excluded from the on-time data Verify Mechanical because of mechanical problems were reported to FAA or that these problems actually occurred.g D&S Office of Consumer Affairs and Office Problems of Inspector General have reviewed some flight records to verify that mechanical problems occurred and were documented as required. Results from these surveys show that some flights were not accurately reported and documentation was not always sufficient to support the claim that mechanical problems caused the delay or cancellation. In March 1990, nur and Fu began to develop procedures that should allow DOTto verify that flights excluded from the on-time data for mechanical reasons were reported to FM. DOT Monitors On-Time ncrr checks each airline’s monthly an-time report for such things as com- pleteness (scheduled flights are reported as required) and rejects a sub- Data for Errors and mission if the error rate is greater than 0.01 percent. If its data are Omissions rejected, the airline must correct the data and re-submit its report. After accepting the data, DOTlooks for anomalies, such as sudden changes in hairlines are required to report mechanical problems to FAA by filing either a Mecharwal Kellabllity Report or a Mechanical Interruption Summary as outlined by 14 C.F.R. 121.703 and 14 C F H 121.705. Page 6 GAO/RC3ED~lM AJrlhed On-Ttmr Prrfo-ce 5197119 the distribution of actual arrival times. For example, if an airline sud- denly began reporting a large number of flights arriving 13 to 1-I min- utes after the scheduled arrival times (on time according to DOT’S1.5 minute criterion), DCTIwould investigate to determine whether the airline adjusted actual arrival and departure times to show better performance than was actually achieved. According to MJTofficials, to date, the on- time data have not indicated sudden changes in near on-time perform- ance that would require such an investigation. DOTestimates the number of flights excluded for mechanical problems by comparing the flights completed (as reported in the on-time data) to the flights scheduled to operate (as listed in the Official Airline Guide). Flights scheduled to operate but not reported in the on-time data are assumed to have experienced mechanical problems, according to the nor officials. On the basis of this assumption, flights excluded from the on- time data because of mechanical problems have averaged over 23,000 flights per month, or about 5 percent of the flights scheduled to operate each month. : While DOTdoes not routinely verify flights affected by mechanical problems, it has investigated this issue. Beginning in 1988, DCT’SOffice of Consumer Affairs surveyed flights omitted from the on-time data. DCT officials selected samples of 5 or 6 flights from each of the 12 reporting airlines and traced them back to the airlines’ records. They found that about half of the flights had been either incorrectly excluded from the on-time data or were not sufficiently documented to support the claim that a mechanical problem caused the delay or cancellation. In 1989, the DCTT Inspector General (IG) also audited the on-time perform- ance data. The audit objectives were to determine (1) whether data sub- mitted by the airlines are accurate, (2) whether flights not reported due to mechanical problems are appropriately documented, and (3 ) whet her nur’s on-time reporting system provides accurate information. To verify the data, the IG traced a sample of flights for each of the 12 reporting airlines back to the pilots’ logs.’ To assess the accuracy of nur’s reporting system, the IG reviewed DOT’Scomputer programs and edit pro- cedures and processed sample data to test the system. ‘Overall, the percentage of flights omitted each month from the on-time data has flUmdtt*i -bung from about 4 percent to over 7 percent. Individual airline rates of mechanical exclusions -h w *lrnllar month-to-month variations. ‘The IG reviewed March 1989 flight data for all airlines except Eastern Air Lines. Auguu?rt1~9 &ta were used for Eastern, since its flights were reduced significantly in March and the ~mrnr*l~rr~~ WOW- quent months because of the strike by the Eastern machinists and pilots. Page 7 GAO/WED-9@164 Airlines’ 011-b Prrforrmnce El97119 The IG’s draft report states that no-r’s reporting system provides accu- rate on-time performance information for the flight data the airlines report to DOT.Regarding the accuracy of the airlines’ data submissions, the IG reported that the airlines accurately reported arrival and depar- ture times. However, the IG found that of 3,903 flights excluded by the airlines from the on-time data because of mechanical problems, .564 should have been reported and included in the on-time data.’ The IGesti- mated that if these flights had been included, 11 airlines’ on-time per- formance would have been slightly less-by 0.1 to 1.9 percent-than reported. DOT Has Not Verified Flights delayed or canceled for mechanical problems average about 23,000 each month, or about 5 percent of all flights scheduled to Mechanical Problems operate. Airlines are not required to report these flights in the on-time data submitted to m, but they must report the mechanical problems to FAA. However, MJTcannot readily verify that the flights were reported to FAA because FAA does not record the data on mechanical problems in a way that allows D(JTto cross-check the information. Specifically, F-AA does not require airlines to include flight numbers when they report mechanical problems. DUI’needs these numbers to verify that the flights were scheduled to operate but were not reported in the on-time data. Furthermore, FAA does not enter the reports on mechanical problems into a consolidated computer data base that would streamline the verifi- cation process. Because of the volume of flights affected by mechanical problems, manual cross-checking would require significant amounts of time and resources. In January 1990, D&S Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs recommended to the Secretary of DCJT that FAA’s reporting system be revised so that flights excluded from D&S on-time data becamseof mechanical problems could be verified. According to DOT,FM began to computerize the maintenance records on mechanical problems more than 2 years ago but stopped because of budget constraints. The Secretary of Transportation recently adopted this recommendation, and FAA and DOT have started to develop procedures for recording and consolidatmy the data on mechanical problems in a way that would allow DOTto \.et-lfy the exclusions. According to DCX,it may require a year to develop and imple- ment the revised reporting procedures. ‘The IG’s audit methodology used simple random sampling to &ect a sample of each ANIUW- Whhts and 95-percent confidence levels for statistical projections. See appendix III for additlonni ,I+-.I.A on the methodology. Page 8 GAO/WED-90-154 Airlines’ On-Tlmr Pwfwmance 5197119 On-Time Data Include Non- Flights canceled for non-mechanical reasons are reported to DOTas late flights in the on-time data. These non-mechanical cancellations average Mechanical Flight about 4,700 flights, or just over 1 percent of flights each month. Reasons Cancellations for non-mechanical cancellations are not identified but include adverse weather, lack of crew, and other factors, such as economic cancellations or unexpected runway closures.‘, Information on non-mechanical cancel- lations for each month is provided in appendix II. According to DOTand airline officials, most of the non-mechanical can- cellations appear to be due to weather conditions since they follow a seasonal pattern. Also, flight cancellations tend to occur in clusters at specific airports on specific dates, which generally correspond to the storm patterns. However, some non-mechanical cancellations may be due to an airline’s attempt to use aircraft more efficiently when mechan- ical problems occur. As a result of inquiries from consumers, during 1987, officials from bur’s Office of Consumer Affairs conducted several on-site investiga- tions to assess whether non-mechanical flight cancellations occurred for economic reasons. The DUI’investigation found that, in some cases, air- lines reassigned planes when a mechanical problem occurred so that the fewest number of passengers were inconvenienced. While economic and efficiency factors are involved in such a decision, uur does not consider these to be economic cancellations. In these cases, flights with relatively few passengers might be canceled so that the aircraft can be used for flights with relatively more passengers whose planes might have experi- enced a mechanical problem. Many factors are involved, but “inconve- niencing the fewest passengers possible” was reported to be the airlines’ primary consideration in making the decision. uur concluded that there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that airlines had been engaged in a deceptive practice of canceling flights for economic reasons. The purpose of the on-time reporting requirement is to provide con- Conclusions sumers with information on airlines’ timeliness, but the on-time per- formance statistics do not indicate how late flights are or provide information on why some flights are canceled. While LXX’Sreporting system measures whether flights depart and arrive within 15 minutes of their scheduled times, it does not indicate whether actual flight times “m defmes economic cancellations as the practice of canceling a flight to save fuel and I WH I I MS when there are only a few passengen booked on the flight. Page 9 GAO/RCELb9@164 Airlines’ On-Time Prrformnnce El97119 are closer to or further from scheduled times since the on-time perform- ance reporting began. Furthermore, the on-time statistics do not provide information on changes that airlines may make to scheduled flight times to facilitate on-time performance. In addition, while non-mechanical flight cancellations are included in the on-time data, airlines do not report the reasons for or extent of such cancellations. In its effort to increase the use of the on-time data, bcrr plans to assess how late flights are and whether scheduled flight times have increased since the on-time performance reporting requirement began. Including the reasons for non-mechanical flight cancellations could also provide additional con- sumer information on airlines’ performance. uur has not been able to readily verify that flights excluded for mechan- ical problems actually experienced these problems or were reported to FAA. Because of the volume of mechanical problem data and the fact that the data are not recorded in a way that facilitates verification, ucrr has not routinely verified this information. The Secretary has directed the Administrator of FAA to implement procedures that will record and con- solidate the mechanical problem data in a way that will allow uor to verify that flights excluded from the on-time data were reported to FAA. These changes should provide the information DOTneeds to monitor the cause of delays. We recommend that the Secretary of Transportation, as part of the Recommendation to effort to increase the usefulness of the on-time data, assess the feasi- the Secretary of bility of requiring airlines to report the reasons for non-mechanical can- Transportation cellations. Airlines currently report flights canceled for non-mechanical reasons, but would need to include the reasons for such cancellations in their monthly on-time data so that DUFcould assess the type and fre- quency of each reason. officials agreed with our overall conclusions and reiterated that plans are underway to improve and further use the on-time data. They also acknowledged that including the reasons for non-mechanical flight can- cellations would provide additional airline performance information. However, they noted that it would be difficult for uur to verify these reasons, given the time and resources required to do so. To minimize the time and resources needed to verify this information, we suggest that DOTconduct periodic spot checks to verify that the reasons provided by the airlines support the non-mechanical cancellations. If such spot Page10 GAO/BCEDgO-1M Airlines’ On-Time Performance El97119 checks indicate repeated reporting errors, a more extensive verification process would be warranted. In conducting our review, we interviewed ~xrr, FAA, and airline officials and obtained the most recent on-time performance data. We performed our work in accordance witl&enerally accepted government auditing standards under the direction of Kenneth M. Mead, Director of Trans- portation Issues, who can be reached at (202)276-1000. Appendix III discusses in more detail the scope and methodology we used in compiling this report, and appendix IV lists other major contributors to the report. We are sending copies of this report to the Secretary of Transportation, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, and other interested parties. J. Dexter Peach Assistant Comptroller General Page 11 GAO/ECED9&164 Ahlined On-Time Perfotmance Contents Letter 1 Appendix I 14 Percentageof Flights That Met the On-Time Performance Criterion Appendix II 16 Flights Canceled for Non-Mechanical Reasons Appendix III Objectives, Scope,and Methodology Appendix IV Major Contributors to This Report Figure Figure 1: Airlines’ On-Time Performance 4 Abbreviations DOT Department of Transportation FAA Federal Aviation Administration GAO General Accounting Office IG Office of Inspector General RCED Resources, Community, and Economic Development DiveIon Page 12 GAO/‘ECEDWlM AMned On-Time Perfwmance Page 13 GAO/RCEDfMJlW Airlines’ On-Time Prrformnnce Appendix I Percentageof Flights That Met the On-Time - Performance Criterion ., - Alaska America Month/year Air West American Continental Sept 1987 79.0 73 4 84 5 81 1 Ott 1987 75 2 74 9 86 1 84 4 Nov.1987 75.4 77 1 83 2 74 5 Dec. 1987 59 2 76.4 73 1 60 5 Jan 1988 76.4 03 9 75 7 648 Feb 1988 76 9 88.7 80 8 ~__ 67 7 Mar 1988 756 89 9 83 8 71 6 Apr.1988 77 7 90.8 850 81 5 May 1988 81.3 90.9 87 6 ~---.___. 80 1 June 1988 82.9 92.8 882 869 July 1988 86.0 93.9 859 830 Aug. 1988 03.7 91 5 859 868 Sept.1988 86.9 92.9 078 ___86 3 odt. 1988 77 9 89.1 83 8 81 9 Nov 1988 74.4 79.2 78 2 77 1 Dec.1988 68.2 76.4 75 6 75 7 Jan.1989 76.0 81.5 77 4 786 Feb.1989 78.2 77.5 65 4 75 2 Mar 1989 77.4 84.9 70 4 78 i Apr 1989 87 5 92.8 85 9 85 3 May 1989 87 0 91.7 81 7 - -.-__ 80.4 June 1989 80.4 90.8 76 2 ~__ 72 5 Julv 1989 82.2 89.4 83 8 80 0 Aug. 1989 75.8 87.0 83 6 79 3 Sept. 1989 83.7 86.7 846 ~~~ 83 6 -- .~~ Oct.1989 79.0 77.1 858 83.4 Nov.1989 80.1 76.9 85 5 79 9 Dec.1989 69.7 72.9 74 1 71 6 Page 14 GAO/RCED-W154 Alrllnes’ On-Time Prrfomce Appendix 1 Percentage of Plight.9 That Met the On-Time Perfommnce Criterion Pacific Delta Eastern Northwest Southwest Pan Am Piedmont Southwest TWA United USAir Average 72.3 80.4 69.0 705 74.3 80.3 82.4 784 792 67 4 766 77 5 83.0 76.5 60.3 79.2 83.2 85.2 794 80.7 77 3----- 803 70 1 766 73.0 73.3 74.6 73.2 82.7 77 5 79.8 732 75 1 61 8 69.5 63.3 57.6 77 3 67 2 742 635 62.6 71 9 -____ 664 65.6 61 5 61.6 81.6 72.6 62.4 85.0 65.5 69.8 73.2 -~ 692 73.6 70.6 61.7 90.6 80.1 75.0 88.5 694 73.2 746 747 77.3 75.6 75.2 92.3 78.8 78.7 86.3 744 78.4 785 788 85.6 75.5 842 91.1 76.5 81.0 90.3 81 5 81.8 779 826 87.4 76.2 83.9 a 68.8 77.5 92.5 81.6 80.5 70.7 81 9 87.6 82.8 84.4 a 72.2 83.4 90.8 79.0 81.1 766 84 3 86.1 77 1 79.2 a 68.8 74.2 91.5 76.6 809 744 81 5 86.9 80.8 78.4 a 74.3 81.9 90.5 78.6 81.0 750 830 88.0 SO.5 75.8 a 83.2 85.3 89.3 81 9 840 83.7 856 87.8 SO.3 80.7 a 81 .l 84.3 82.8 81 5 79.7 79.7 83.4 79.8 85.3 73.8 a 77.8 77.5 77.0 79.0 73.8 76.6 77 7 79.3 88.1 77.4 a 75.1 71.6 79.6 73.9 69.0 766 76 1 77.1 82.6 78.8 a 76.3 74.3 77.0 72.1 69.2 792 76 7 73.4 80.5 80.4 a 73.7 68.8 71.0 71.7 65.6 76.0 72.4 76.7 I> 82.1 a 69.1 56.1 75.3 66.8 66.4 730 72.3 84.2 92.9 89.7 a 70.9 70.7 84.2 80.8 80.2 85.6 034 81.7 87.2 83.6 a 69.6 71.0 77.9 79.0 73.9 79.4 795 72.0 80.1 75.1 a 64.4 62.8 75.8 78.6 63.0 69.4 72.2 79.1 86.4 77.6 a 73.9 67.6 85.4 79.8 62.3 722 769 79.0 86.9 74.6 a 75.9 65.7 84.6 78.3 60.1 62.6 74 6 82.7 80.6 74.6 a 77.7 c 86.9 82.2 76.1 71 7 79 6 83.8 83.9 77.3 a 76.8 c 82.6 82.4 76.9 70.3 795 80.1 81.3 76.7 a 76.9 c 81.4 81.8 78.1 684 780 71.4 69.1 76.7 a 73.5 c 81.6 67.8 70.7 594 70.2 Note: A flight IS considered on time if it departs from or arrives at the gate wrthrn 15 mtnutes of IIS scheduled trme. Arrknes are requrred to report on-trme performance data for non-stop flights from the largest U.S. arrports (currently 29). In addition, the arrlines have chosen to report thus data for their entire domestic systems and that information is rncluded in this table. %ot avalable; Pacrfic Southwest merged wrth USAir. “Eastern drd not report usable data because its strike Interrupted flight operations. Subsequent months reflect reduced operatrons CNot available; Ptedmont merged with USArr Page 15 GAO/RCEDBO-154 AlrUnes’ On-Time Pedormance Appendix II Flights Canceledfor Non-Mechanical Reasons ‘- Total flights Flights canceled Month/year performed Number Percent Sept 1987 427 570 3.864 Ott 1987 448.620 3 oo, -.--~~~~~~-0709 Nov 1987 422.803 5 191 - 17 Dec.1987 440,403 11.493 26 Jan 1988 436,950 15,755 36 Feb 1988 412,579 7,323 18 March 1988 445.080 3,123 ---~~- 07 April1988 427,325 2,414 06 May 1988 435,916 2,627 06 June 1988 431.299 1.203 Oi July 1988 441.118 2.750 - 06 Aug 1988 446,769 2.478 06 Sept.1988 424,075 2,038 05 Ott 1988 441,670 2,306 05 Nov 1988 420,861 3.517 ~~-....__ 08 Dee 1988 438,454 4.629 11 Jan.1989 440.022 7.040 16 Feb.~1989 395,176 8,106 21 March1989 414,833 7,035 17 April1989 405,604 2.086 05 Mav 1989 416,160 2,523 06 June 1989 406,293 3,722 09 July 1989 417,166 2.953 -- -~ 07 Aug.1989 426,085 2,692 -~ __ 06 Seot.1989 415,068 5,195 13 Oct. 1989 437,134 4,211 10 Nov.1989 417,821 3,497 -_- 08 -. __ Dec. 1989 429,490 9,282 22 Total 11,962,344 132,054 ~___ Monthly averaqe 427,227 4,716 11 Note: Flights canceled for non-mechanical reasons are reported as part of the on-time dala counted as late, but also Identified as canceled flights. Page 16 GAO/RCED9@164 Airli~~es’ On-Time Prrfomxance Ppe %i%ves, Scope,and Methodology On March 2, 1989, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, House Committee on Public Works and Transportation, and the Ranking Minority Member of the Subcommittee requested that we review the Department of Transportation’s (Dar> Office of Consumer Affairs. Specifically, the requesters asked us to focus on the data DOT maintains on airlines’ on-time performance. To respond to the reques- ters’ concerns, we obtained information on airlines’ scheduling practices, on-time performance statistics, and flights affected by mechanical and non-mechanical problems. To respond to these concerns, we interviewed officials in bur’s Office of Consumer Affairs, Office of General Counsel, Office of Economics, Office of Aviation Information Management, Federal Aviation Adminis- tration, and Office of Inspector General. We also obtained the most recent statistics maintained by nor on airlines’ on-time performance and consumer complaints regarding airline service. We discussed flight schedule changes and adjustments airlines made to reduce delays and improve their on-time performance with officials from American, America West, Delta, Eastern, United, and USAir air- lines. We also evaluated a sample of 216 nonstop flights to assess whether changes had been made to the time scheduled for each flight. We selected eight flights from each of the 27 largest airports for which on-time performance data were reported during October of 1987, 1988, and 1989. For each airport, we identified two routes with a large number and frequency of flights. Then, we selected four flights for each of the two routes, which were operated by at least two airlines and scheduled at various times throughout the day. For these flights, we compared the scheduled flight time and on-time performance data reported for October 1987,1988, and 1989. We interviewed officials from u&s Office of Inspector General (lo) to obtain information on their audit of the data on airlines’ flight delays. The overall objective of the IG audit was to determine the accuracy of flight delay data reported to DOTand the effectiveness of DCYPS system in controlling the reported data and producing the on-time performance information. The IG’s audit assessed the accuracy of the on-time flight data submitted to DOTand whether the flights excluded from the on-time data because of mechanical problems were appropriately documented. The audit included statistical sampling (simple random sampling) to select a sample of the reported flight data and a separate sample of the excluded flights. The IG'S sampling methodology provided audit results used for statistical projections at the g&percent confidence level. Page 17 GAO/WED-BtS164 Alrllnee’ On-‘Woe hdomunce Appendix III Objectives, Scope, and Methodology Our review was conducted between July and December 1989 in accor- dance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Page 18 GAO/RCED9&154 AlrUnes’ On-Tinw Pwf~rmance Appendix IV Major Contributors to This Report James Noel, Assistant Director Resources, Francis P. Mulvey, Assistant Director Community, and Nancy E. Oquist, Evaluator-in-Charge John C. Johnson, Evaluator Economic Development Division, Washington, D.C. .. P8ge 19 c . Requests for copies of GAO reports should be sent to: U.S. General Accounting Office Post Office Box 6015 Gaithersburg, Maryland 20877 Telephone 202-275-6241 ” The first five copies of each report are free. Additional copies are $2.00 each. There is a 25% discount on orders for 100 or more copies mailed to a single address. Orders must be prepaid by cash or by check or money order made out to the Superintendent of Documents.
Airline Scheduling: Airlines' On-Time Performance
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-06-15.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)