Occasionally, we like to take the pulse of the traveling public to see what issues are affecting frequent flyers most.
Fortunately, we have a rather large ally in that endeavor — the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Every month the DOT publishes its Air Travel Consumer Report, which gives an overview of the problems flyers are running into, and the best and worst in terms of airline service.
The most recent report, released in December, indicates that flight delays were the biggest problem this fall. The nation’s largest airlines experienced a higher rate of flight delays in October 2004 than in both September 2004 and October 2003, according to the DOT.
According to information filed with the department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the 19 carriers reporting on-time performance recorded an overall on-time arrival rate of 81.0 percent in October, down from both October 2003’s rate of 86.4 percent and September 2004’s 83.9 percent.
Leading the pack in terms of being on time was Hawaiian Airlines, which reported a full 95.3 percent of its flights on schedule. Continental and JetBlue finished second and third, with 87.7 and 86.8 percent, respectively.
The least reliable in October was Atlantic Southeast (a Delta subsidiary), reporting only 71.5 percent of its flights on time.
And where you fly has an impact on delays. Chicago’s O’Hare International had just 72.9 percent of its flights leave on time, and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, the nation’s busiest, managed just 77.2 percent.
The report includes customer complaints on a variety of issues, including complaints about frequent flyer programs. Regrettably, though, these are lumped into a catchall “other” category, which also includes smoking, cargo problems, security, airport facilities and more.
Regardless, though, it appears that at least judging by the report, U.S. programs are doing a reasonably good job of keeping their members happy.
Only 14 complaints potentially related to frequent flyer programs were registered in October – a mere 4 percent of total gripes. Delta logged the most, with four, followed by American with 3. Not too shabby, considering that those two programs boast somewhere in the neighborhood of 81 million members between them.