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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Air Travel Consumer Report: January 2021 Numbers

Friday, March 26, 2021

Release Number: DOT 15-21


Air Travel Consumer Report: January 2021 Numbers

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation today released its March 2021 Air Travel Consumer Report (ATCR) on airline operational data compiled for the month of January 2021. The ATCR and other aviation consumer matters of interest to the public can be found at  

This month’s release of the ATCR marks the 50th anniversary of the monthly publication of airline operational data. The ATCR was originally published by the Civil Aeronautics Board (predecessor to DOT) in March 1971.  It is designed to inform consumers about the quality of the services that airlines provide.

Now in its 50th  year, the ATCR has grown from a report containing only complaint data to a report that provides airline performance data to the public on a range of issues, including flight delays, cancellations, mishandled baggage, mishandled wheelchairs and scooters, oversales, and consumer complaints.

The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health emergency has resulted in significant changes to airline schedules and operations, contributing to airlines’ on-time performance and cancellation statistics in January 2021.

Beginning with January 2021, Horizon Air is reporting Airline Service Quality Performance Data to DOT. Horizon has exceeded the revenue threshold of half of 1% of total domestic scheduled-service passenger revenues for mandatory reporting.

The 10 marketing network carriers reported 379,384 scheduled domestic flights in January 2021 compared to 397,802 flights in December 2020 and 660,556 flights in January 2020. Of those 379,384 scheduled flights, 1.1%, 4,155 flights, were canceled. As a result of schedule reductions and cancellations, the carriers reported operating 375,229 flights in January 2021, compared to 393,549 flights in December 2020 and the all-time monthly low of 180,151 flights in May 2020. Airlines operated 652,140 flights in January 2020.

January On-Time Performance

In January 2021, reporting marketing carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 89.0%, up from both 87.2% in December 2020 and 84.6% in January 2020.

Highest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates January 2021 (ATCR Table 1)

  1. Hawaiian Airlines Network – 94.5%
  2. Alaska Airlines Network – 91.8%
  3. Delta Air Lines Network – 91.1%

Lowest Marketing Carrier On-Time Arrival Rates January 2021 (ATCR Table 1)

  1. JetBlue Airways – 77.6%
  2. Allegiant Air – 80.5%
  3. American Airlines Network – 86.4%

January Cancellations

In January 2021, reporting marketing carriers canceled 1.1% of their scheduled domestic flights, equal to the rate of 1.1% in December 2020 and lower than the rate of 1.3% in January 2020.

Lowest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights January 2021 (ATCR Table 6)

  1. Delta Air Lines Network – 0.2%
  2. Hawaiian Airlines Network – 0.2%
  3. Frontier Airlines – 0.3%

Highest Marketing Carrier Rates of Canceled Flights January 2021 (ATCR Table 6)

  1. Allegiant Air – 4.8%
  2. United Airlines Network – 1.8%
  3. American Airlines Network – 1.4%

Tarmac Delays

In January 2021, airlines reported no tarmac delays of more than three hours on domestic flights, compared to three tarmac delays reported in December 2020 and four tarmac delays reported in January 2020. In January 2021, airlines reported no tarmac delays of more than four hours on international flights, compared to two tarmac delays reported in December 2020 and no tarmac delays in January 2020.

Airlines are required to have and adhere to assurances that they will not allow aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours for domestic flights and four hours for international flights without providing passengers the option to deplane, subject to exceptions related to safety, security, and Air Traffic Control related reasons. Extended tarmac delays are investigated by the Department.

Mishandled Baggage

In January 2021, the reporting marketing carriers posted a mishandled baggage rate of 3.92 mishandled bags per 1,000 checked bags, a lower rate than the December 2020 rate of 4.21 per 1,000 checked bags and the January 2020 rate of 5.48 per 1,000 checked bags.

Mishandled Wheelchairs and Scooters

In January 2021, reporting marketing airlines reported checking 16,195 wheelchairs and scooters and mishandling 196, a rate of 1.21% mishandled, higher than the rate of 1.15% mishandled in December 2020 but lower than 1.47% in January 2020. In January 2020, the airlines checked 51,889 wheelchairs and scooters, mishandling 762.


Bumping/oversales data, unlike other air carrier data, are reported quarterly rather than monthly. Fourth quarter 2020 bumping/oversales data were released in the February 2020 Air Travel Consumer Report. First quarter 2021 bumping/oversales data will be available in the May 2021 Air Travel Consumer Report.

Incidents Involving Animals

In January 2021, carriers reported two incidents involving the death, injury, or loss of an animal while traveling by air, up from the one report filed in December 2020, but down from the four reports filed in January 2020.  January’s incidents involved two injured animals.

Complaints About Airline Service

In January 2021, DOT received 3,966 complaints about airline service from consumers, up 3.1% from the 3,846 received in December 2020 and up 202.3% from the total of 1,312 filed in January 2020.  Of the 3,966 complaints received in January 2021, 3,291 (82.98%) concerned refunds.  The Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection continues to communicate with U.S. and foreign airlines that received a large number of refund complaints to ensure compliance with the refund requirements. Many passengers who had initially been denied refunds have received the required refunds.  The Department will take enforcement action against noncompliant airlines and ticket agents as necessary.

Complaints About Treatment of Disabled Passengers

In January 2021, the Department received a total of 36 disability-related complaints, down from both the 43 complaints received in December 2020 and the 70 complaints received in January 2020.

The Air Carrier Access Act and the Department’s implementing regulation prohibit discrimination by airlines against individuals on the basis of disability.  All complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of disability are investigated by the Department.

Complaints About Discrimination

In January 2021, the Department received six complaints alleging discrimination – five complaints regarding race and one complaint regarding sex.  This is up from the five complaints received in December 2020, but down from the 11 complaints recorded in January 2020.

Federal law prohibits discrimination in air transportation by airlines on the basis of a person’s race, color, national origin, religion, ancestry, or sex.  The Department investigates all complaints that it receives alleging discrimination.

Consumers may file air travel consumer or civil rights complaints online at or by voicemail at (202) 366-2220, or they may mail a complaint to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division, U.S. Department of Transportation, C-75, W96-432, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20590.