Flight delays and cancellations are disruptive and costly for passengers, airlines, and the economy. Long tarmac delays have created hardships for some passengers. To enhance passenger protections in the event of flight disruptions, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) recently introduced passenger protection regulations, including a rule that took effect in April 2010 designed to prevent tarmac delays more than 3 hours (the tarmac delay rule), as well as other efforts to improve passenger welfare. As requested, this report addresses (1) whether flight delays and cancellations differ by community size; (2) how DOT's tarmac delay rule has affected passengers and airlines; and (3) how passenger protection requirements in the United States, Canada, and the European Union (EU) affect passengers and airlines. GAO analyzed DOT data, including through the use of regression models, as well as data from FlightStats, a private source of flight performance information. GAO also reviewed documents and interviewed government, airline, and consumer group officials in the United States, Canada, and the EU.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Transportation||To enhance aviation consumers' decision-making, the Secretary of Transportation should collect and publicize more comprehensive on-time performance data to ensure that information on most flights, to airports of all sizes, is included in the Bureau of Transportation Statistics' database. DOT could accomplish this by, for example, requiring airlines with a smaller percentage of the total domestic scheduled passenger service revenue, or airlines that operate flights for other airlines, to report flight performance information.||
Closed – Implemented
|Department of Transportation||To enhance DOT's understanding of the impact of tarmac delays and flight cancellations, the Secretary of Transportation should fully assess the impact of the tarmac delay rule, including the relationship between the rule and any increase in cancellations and how they effect passengers and, if warranted, refine the rule's requirements and implementation to maximize passenger welfare and system efficiency.||
Closed – Implemented