DOT Continues to Claim Tarmac Delay Victory Despite 20 Percent Rise in Cancellations

Delta, Government Regulation

The Air Travel Consumer Report covering July flights is out, and the Department DOT Delay Masterof Transportation release on so-called “tarmac” delays had the same subject line as it did last month with only the month’s name changed.

Long Tarmac Delays in July Down Dramatically from Last Year

Yes, the DOT has decided to crow once again about how few long ground delays there were with “only a slight increase in the rate of canceled flights.” Really? I would think a 20% increase in canceled flights would be a little more than “slight,” don’t you?

That’s right. Forgetting about the DOT’s rounding to a single decimal point, the cancellation rate rose from 1.18 to 1.43 percent, an increase of more than 20 percent. Had the same cancellation rate from last year held for this July, there would have been 1,442 fewer flights canceled this year. If you assume 100 people on each flight, that’s nearly 150,000 people impacted.

Small increase, huh?

But don’t think that this is me crowing that the rule is failing miserably either. There are other issues here as well that came into play. The DOT doesn’t like to dig into these things, but it’s very important to look at where the cancellations came from.

The bulk in July came from Delta, which had a miserable month all the way around. Of the 8,170 canceled flights in July, more than 3,000 came from Delta and its regional affiliates. Delta also failed to run even 70 percent of its flights on time, joined in that exclusive bottom-dwelling club by wholly-owned subsidary Comair and Continental’s main regional, ExpressJet.

So what happened to make Delta’s month so terrible? I knew this was coming, so I made sure to ask Glen Hauenstein, CMO and EVP Network Planning, Revenue Management and Marketing when I was at Delta a couple weeks ago. The full interview will be published later, but this snippet is entirely relevant.

We gave ops a very challenging schedule to achieve. In turn, ops was trying to streamline some of its practices. We may have crossed in the night on that. By the second week of August, they were at the top of their game.

So they had issues and eventually fixed them, but those issues certainly contributed to the cancellation rate for the month. Does that mean that the DOT should continue crowing about how awesome its rule-making ability is? No. As Glen says . . .

We have turned back flights getting close to 3 hours and have canceled them. The total number is not that great, but if you’re on a plane that gets turned back at 2.5 hours and cancels, then it becomes very personal.

True. And Delta wasn’t the only one seeing increases either. While the legacy operating carriers did mostly hold steady (outside of Delta), their regionals took more of the heat. For example, American Eagle and ExpressJet both saw fairly substantial increases in cancellation rates.

So where does this leave us? Once again, it’s hard to draw conclusions despite the DOT’s need to do so for political purposes. Without knowing exact cancellations due to the ground delay rule, we can’t see the true trade-off.

We know for sure that there have been additional cancellations, but nobody wants to talk exact numbers. Any airlines out there want to start releasing details? Come on, you know you want to.

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47 comments on “DOT Continues to Claim Tarmac Delay Victory Despite 20 Percent Rise in Cancellations

  1. I’m a Gold Medallion flyer on Delta. I can confirm that July was absolutely awful. Over a Thursday to Tuesday stretch, I had 10 hours of delays. Not good times. Thanks for sharing the reasoning.

  2. I think assuming 100 people on each cancelled flight is a bit high. Most of the cancelled flights were probably 50 seat RJs, and (since they were chosen for cancellation…) not full RJs at that.

    Assume 30 people per flight => ~43k impacted people.

    That is indeed a small increase for the benefit of knowing that _everyone_ gets to get off of a plane after being grounded for 3 hours.

    My two cents.

    1. It’s a very slight benefit, as I’m sure Don could relate. An airline could delay a flight six hours–as long as passengers are either in the crowded gatehouse in the terminal or even on the aircraft itself as long as the forward door is open, taxi out to the lineup for 2 1/2 hours, then turn around and put the jetway back on at 2:59, cancel the flight and dump all the passengers into the now deserted terminal with nary a thing to eat in sight.

      Schedules and capacity have been cut back to the point where flights are so full that a cancellation often means being stranded in a strange city for days.

      I find one of the odd things about the reasoning behind the DOT rule to be that the terminal building is treated like some sort of Shangri-La. The Continental Express diversion to RST that touched off all this is an interesting case in point. Had the rule been in effect then, Mesaba agents could have deplaned everyone into the teeny tiny terminal and abandonded them with no vending machines and bathrooms locked up for the night and technically have been in compliance.

      1. You can leave the terminal, you can’t leave an aircraft on a taxiway.

        Call me crazy, but I would rather catch a cab to a motel, than spend the night on an RJ.

    2. Since I’ve been at a conference all week, I haven’t been able to jump into the conversation as much as I’d like. So, now I’m back. . .

      It’s entirely possible that 100 seats is a bit too high, but 30 is way too low. Even if these were all 50 seat RJs, those aren’t running a 60% load factor. It would be at least 40 people. But the main point is that they aren’t all RJs. The DOT breaks out cancellations by operating airline, so we can actually know how many were regionals vs big jets.

      Of the 8,170 canceled flights in August, 3,926 were on big jets, so 48%. I don’t think 100 is necessarily all that high, but it’s certainly not perfect.

  3. I had 30 segments of flights in July. I had 4 cancellations or re-directs. I am fortunate that I have Platinum status with Delta and Premier Exec with United so that I was able to get other flights except for one. It was a truly bad month for travels.

    1. Better yet, cancel one of Hoodie’s flights, and leave him stranded in East Pitchfork, Montana.

    2. >>>Can someone at an airline cancel one of Kate Hanni’s flights? Just for fun…

      Only if it waits out on a taxiway for 2:59 and *then* gets brought back to the gate, and *then* cancelled….

      Man, would *that* be poetic justice…. ;)

    3. Poetic justice for Ted and Evil Genius would be one of you answering our hotline for just 2 hours and 59 minutes prior to the rule’s implementation in April when folks were still being subjected to long tarmac times. Listen to what folks really think and feel about being stuck inside planes without food, water, clean toilets with babies screaming. Listen to disabled persons discuss what it’s like to try to enter a bathroom with a full cath bag, or the man with cerebral palsy who had a caregiver who was responsible for carrying him on and off the plane who cannot fit into an airline restroom so stays on the tarmac for him are life threatening, or a diabetic being screamed at by a FA for trying to get up and get their insulin, or the mother of the 8 year old cancer survivor subjected to her parents custody dispute who is sitting on the tarmac as an unaccompanied minor, just having had chemotherapy, and going to miss her connecting flight. Or the mom with 4 kids who’s trying desperately to keep them calm during a 5 hour delay without air conditioning…

      Yep, that’s a fair trade…I’ll gladly take the flight cancellation! I and the majority of the flying public would prefer the cancellation to being stuck in a plane for any length of time…

      But let’s not draw any hasty conclusions. It makes absolutely no business sense fot he airlines to cancel flights unless they cannot get them off the ground. And the metering system in New York at JFK is working perfectly. We are working very hard to get those metering systems implemented at other highly congested airports so that planes don’t have to leave the gate until they have less than one hour to get off the ground!

      On average cancellations for the last three months are still well below the last 15 years average for the same three months.

      So to criticize the rule, so soon, is simply foolish.

      1. “”””” I and the majority of the flying public would prefer the cancellation to being stuck in a plane for any length of time…”””””

        Wow 350+ million people in this country and you asked all of them to know what the majority prefer. Funny I don’t recall you askiing me or anyone else I know how they felt. Maybe your majority really isn’t.

      2. Kate,
        Wonderful job fuzzing the issue up. Your whole first paragraph is due to FAA regulations. Once a plan is moving on the ground passengers need to be seated for their safety, per the FAA. The flight attendants are just enforcing this rule by doing their job. The airline cannot tell them not to enforce it, as that would be illegal! I’m not sure where this ends but I’d much rather that you had pushed for rights during delays, rather than the 3 hour rule..

        I’m not sure what survey you’re referencing, but I’ll place a wager that it didn’t fairly present the issue. A fair way to present the issue would be to ask the question this way: Which of these options would you prefer when faced with an extended delay on an airplane:
        1. Having the plane return to the terminal and potentially not arriving to your destination for two or three days later.
        2. Wait four hours on the ground and get to your destination late.

        I bet most people would choose option two.

        I of course agree with you that during extended ground delays planes should be parked so that people can use the restroom, obtain insulin, etc… They don’t need to get off the plane to make this happen.

        “It makes absolutely no business sense fot he airlines to cancel flights unless they cannot get them off the ground.” This is pretty easy to drive a hole through. An airline would rather cancel a flight than face a fine of $27,500 per passenger. Even with only 100 passengers onboard it cheaper to reaccommodate them, and blame the FAA rules than to pay the quarter of a million dollars and flying the plane. The airline simply doesn’t make that much on the flight to risk it.

        Oh, and I love the metering system at JFK, although this is really reworking an FAA rule rather than the airline’s policies.

        1. Man, you are really out of touch. Sure YOU might rather spend 4 hours on the ground than get a flight cancellation. How about 5, 6, 7 8…..? I am sure you are in perfect health and you never complain about anything ever. A business has got to make a profit and you must get to your destination at all costs, so tough luck to the people Kate described, eh?

          Clearly, as Kate pointed out, not everyone wants to, or can be safely trapped in a tube for an indefinite period of time that they didn’t plan for. Have you ever traveled with a baby? I have. Should I carry 10 hours worth of food, clothing and diapers on every 1 hour flight?

          Lets stick you on a plane arriving in your home airport, sitting on the ramp for 8 hours, under the conditions Kate described, and let me know your opinion when you get off the plane.

          You don’t have to be an airline employee to drink their propaganda and be an out of touch apologist.

          1. What about having different rules depending on the time of day? For flights in the day, make it 4 or 5 hours, so people may actually get to their destination rather than spend the whole day in the airport, but for flights at night set the limit to 2 or 3 hours so people don’t get stuck out on the tarmac too late. By then, people won’t be able to make connecting flights and delays shouldn’t be too bad in the evening.
            Besides, if the airlines were allowed to decide these things for themselves, 99% of the time it would be in your best interest too; they dislike delays as much as you do, they don’t want crew and aircraft schedules messed up by cancellations, they don’t want to have to rebook you 2 days later because all other flights are full. So by letting the airlines work things out for themselves, you are also helping those who travel on them.

          2. Earlier this year, I flew from Houston to Florida to see the last launch of the shuttle Atlantis. Houston is home of the Johnson Space Center, and it was a weekend launch, so Houston-Orlando was a very popular city pair that weekend, to say the least. If my flight would have been cancelled, there were no other seats available to get me there in time for the launch (I know this because I had a friend almost miss the flight, and they were rushed through security rather than rebooked for precisely this reason). Would I have waited on board the plane for more than 3 hours if not doing so meant that I missed the launch? You know it.

            That’s a pretty specific scenario though…let’s look at something a bit more general. Let’s say it’s the holiday season, and my airplane gets ground-stopped due to weather (either here or at my destination, take your pick). Let’s also say that, thanks to the sheer number of holiday travellers and the flights already cancelled due to winter weather, if I don’t get out on this flight, then there are no seats available to my destination for another 2-3 days.

            In this situation, would I take a “5, 6, 7, 8” hour ground stop in a plane, with the pilot waiting to for a break in the clouds and a takeoff slot, over having to sit at the airport for 2-3 days? You betcha.

            I don’t believe this is a far fetched a scenario at all, and I’m lookinig forward to seeing how well things go in December; I think it’s going to be the first true test of the 3 hour rule. Take a rule that increases cancellations, throw in holiday season load factors, and add a dash of winter weather…I can’t help but think that it’s going to be a volatile mix.

            Honestly, rather than mandating an broad-brush approach with an arbitrary time limit that, in some cases, will cause more problems than it solves, I’d rather see the focus be on ensuring that proper services (food, water, lav, etc.) are assured during a ground stop.

          3. Jason,
            First lets be clear, I don’t think what Kate has documented is acceptable. There should always be working toilets on a plane.
            There should always be a reasonable air temperature on a plane.
            There should always be access to needed medication on a plane.
            There should always be adequate liquids provided to passengers.

            I’ve previously said on another of Cranky’s entries that after a certain number of hours (say five?) it should be legal for passengers to pop the slide, and then proceed to the terminal and/or nearest fence, so I’m opinion that unending delays are acceptable.

            That being said, the 3 hour rule is like curing a hangnail by amputating the patient’s foot. Sure it solves the problem, but the costs to solve the problem are far too high.

            I think part of what is needed are some reasonable expectations. A one hour flight should never have a ten hour delay. (The Continental RJ in MN was unacceptable, and wouldn’t have been covered by the 3 hour rule since it was a diversion.) Passengers should expect on domestic flights to be able to go without food for the length of the flight plus four hours, or be expected to bring their own. (My thinking about four hours is an expected hour on the ground on either side, plus a two hour delay.) Airlines are not nannies, of course they’re providing less than they used to of, but thats because no one will pay for what they used to provide. Now a days, I don’t expect an airline to provide me food on domestic flights, 20 years ago I did.

            That being said, I have had my fair share of irregular operations. Arriving excessively late, and long delays on the taxiway. Yes, I was tired, exhausted an frustrated, but I’m glad my plane got to its destination instead of being canceled.

            Oh, and regarding airlines making a profit. There is a joke/truism about airlines:
            Q: How do you make a small fortune in the airlines?
            A: Start with a large fortune!

            Honestly, if you look at airlines they make next to no money. Its also exceptionally amazing how large their revenues are in relation to their versus their profits if they even have profits. Oh, and I want the businesses I do business with to be profitable. It means they have enough resources to carry out their business, and they’ll continue to be in business and more likely to take care of any problems that arise.

        2. Good writing Nicholas. Reminds me of the time American took a survey at DFW asking people if they wanted Southwest to come to DFW. Everyone said yes and AA make a big media issue of the survey results to get WN out of DAL and into DFW. They just tailored a question to their benefit and put that out to the media. A correct survey would have been if the public wanted WN to come to DFW and move out of DAL, or Repeal the Wright Ammendment and have flights to anywhere from DAL.

          Anyone can take a survey and manipulate questions and answers to their favor, my job does that every year with it’s employee survey……LOL

        3. Unless we’re talking at cross purposes, the metering program in JFK actually increases the probability of long “tarmac delays”. Airlines with very crowded operations at undersized, outdated terminals (who could I possibly mean?) end up repositioning aircraft to distant remote pads to hold until the takeoff slot time comes. Unless of course the decision is made to just cancel and take the completion factor hit rather than the $27.5k hit.

      3. And as posted numerous times throughout the post, and other comments, it more than likely is too soon to bash the rule. However, that means its also too early to go rah rah about the rule, which is exactly what the FAA is doing.

        1. Nicholas: I would agree with a regulation that matches the acceptable delay with the length of the flight. A 3.5 hour delay JFK-LHR might be acceptable, but not JFK-ALB.

          The slide aside, the real problem with most of the arguments being made is that everyone is offering a false choice; wait on the ramp, or cancel the flight. I don’t think the 3 hour rule requires the flight to be canceled, it just requires passengers be allowed to deplane. The space shuttle example actually illustrates how the rule could work. If you already missed the purpose of your trip, wouldn’t you rather deplane than arrive at your destination after the event you were planning on attending?

          It just seems to me that airlines only take responsibility when the rules force them to. Before the 3 hour rule, stranding the RJ overnight was acceptable because they were afraid of violating some perceived security rule. Time and time again, everyone pointed fingers and no one took responsibility.

          The 3 hr rule forces someone to take responsibility for stranded passengers, it does not force anyone to cancel a flight.

          1. Jason. I definitely agree with on you on JFK-LHR vs. JFK-ALB.

            Admittedly, I’m not sure how the logistics would work on being allowed to deplane instead of just canceling the flight. I’d like to see some appropriate flexibility in the rule. If a plane is at two hours and 30 minutes on the ground (because it’ll probably take 20 minutes to get to the gate and you’d want 10 minutes as a buffer) but is ninth in line to take off of a line that is finally moving, I think a large majority of passengers would want to go. The airline though might not want to take the chance of a weather delay..

            Regarding airlines only taking responsibility when they’re forced to, I’d disagree. I think many of the arguments stating that the airlines don’t take responsibility unless they’re forced to rely far too much on anecdotal evidence. In a vast majority of cases airlines take care of the problems and we never hear about it.

            The RJ overnight definitely was a horrible example. The airline that was operating the plane didn’t have any operations at the airport they landed at, and they requested that the airline that did have operations there deplane the passengers, but they refused because of the security rule which was incorrect. Given that its generally reasonable to expect another airline to help out a competitor in irregular operation, landing at that airport wasn’t a bad call. The radio communications (or were they phone calls?) from the captain of that plane makes it pretty clear that she was advocating to get the passengers first to where they wanted to go, and when that became unreasonable, to get them off the plane.

            I’ll take one of my former positions as an example of why I defend the airlines here. I used to be responsible for making sure that fruit (mostly banannas, but also pineapples, avacados, melons etc.) made it from point a to point b ontime via trucks. 95% of the loads (rougly equivelent to a flight) went fine without any intervention regarding exceptions from me. Another 4% had exceptions, but we handled them, and the fruit arrived ontime, or at least a reasonable time. That remaining 1% had all other sorts of exceptions and problems with lots of fun stories. If you judged us on that 1% that had colorful stories, you’d think we were horrible at our jobs. If you juged us on the 99% that went mostly without a hitch, you’d think we were awesome at our jobs. What was really telling is when Hurricane Katrina took out one of our major ports, and I spent two months working 55 hour weeks at twice my normal pace. Then we were handling probably 60% exceptions, and our customers were just happy to have bannanas..

            Oh, and I agree airline data sucks and probably needs to leave the 1970s and join us in this decade.

      4. So to criticize the rule, so soon, is simply foolish.

        Oh please, Kate. Criticizing the rule is no more foolish than calling it a “resounding success” as you did with merely one month of data. Anyone can pull out a handful of horror stories and say the rule is necessary, but those are so few and far between. A hard cap rule like this is bound to have side effects, and when the impact was so small in the first place (compared to the total number of people flying), those side effects should be given more attention.

        @JasonSteele – Nicholas is an “out of touch apologist”? That’s one of my pet peeves when people try to discount a valid argument by just saying that they’re in the airline’s pocket. Take the argument on its merits instead of simply discarding it.

        How many 5, 6, 7, or 8 hour delays have their been? VERY few. That’s not the big issue here. It makes for nice headlines and politicians can smile broadly at having “fixed” it, but there are just so few people impacted by insanely long delays like that. It shouldn’t happen, of course, but airlines agree as well. As I’ve said before, you can’t regulate common sense, and often that’s the problem. On to a couple of your points.

        I don’t think the 3 hour rule requires the flight to be canceled, it just requires passengers be allowed to deplane.

        But it’s not that easy. There are crew duty limits standing in the way, first of all. Yes, there is an effort to change duty time right now, and that could give a bit more flexibility. But it is the case that when the door opens after a long delay, the crew may not have the ability to complete that flight. Had they stayed out on the taxiway, they could have. That’s the biggest problem here. For the public, it seems so easy but it rarely is, and that’s why the pro-3 hour rule supporters get the best press.

        Before the 3 hour rule, stranding the RJ overnight was acceptable because they were afraid of violating some perceived security rule. Time and time again, everyone pointed fingers and no one took responsibility.

        I think Nicholas covered this one already, but it was never acceptable. The now-required tarmac delay plans at every airport make this issue go away. I’m glad that piece of the rule was implemented. But the 3 hour rule doesn’t help this situation. Again, regulating common sense doesn’t work, but now the tarmac delay plans are in writing and everyone should be trained on them. That’s a good part of the rule.

  4. Any company including the Feds that pushed a policy will always sing the praises but never the down side of it all. So the Feds will say “tarmac” delays are down, but they will not talk about cancels are up because of it.

    And you know what woman is sing her own praise, but will also ignore the fact cancels are higher.

    I did notice that out of 18 carriers Delta and Comair were nbrs 16 & 17 on the on time list. The largest carrier in the world at nbr 16 is not good. It’s like saying “Hey we’re the largest carrier in the world so we don’t have to be on-time as you’ll fly us anyway” which is a polite way of saying “screw you we don’t care, we’re the largest airline”.

    1. I did notice that out of 18 carriers Delta and Comair were nbrs 16 & 17 on the on time list. The largest carrier in the world at nbr 16 is not good. It’s like saying “Hey we’re the largest carrier in the world so we don’t have to be on-time as you’ll fly us anyway” which is a polite way of saying “screw you we don’t care, we’re the largest airline”.

      They’ve said no such thing. They actually seem to care about it, and that’s why I included the quote from Glen Hauenstein. Sounds like the first two weeks of August still didn’t go well, but after that it improved significantly. Yes, it was awful, but they certainly seem to care that it was awful.

  5. As a “commuting” crewmember, I finally endured one of those Hanni Rule Flights. we sat out on the tarmac for 2 and a half hours and returned to the gate while the crew went illegal. While on the tarmac, I missed the next bank of flights and had to wait over an hour for the next. All in all, it took me SEVEN HOURS to get home. Thank god, I always have “cold ones” in the Frig.

  6. Calling the “increase” in cancellations a 20% increase is just bad, bad analysis and I’ve come to expect more from you. Let me point out that if the previous year’s cancellations had been “1” and this year there were “2” cancellations you’d be talking about a 200% increase.

    However, when you do look at the cancellation rates, yes, the “increase” is statistically insignificant. For the data sample, it means absolutely nothing. Which means that there is no meaningful increase or decrease. If you want to take the FAA out for crowing over no meaningful change, fine by me but when you call out a “20% increase”, you do as bad a disservice to the facts as the FAA may be donig.

    Which really means that we still haven’t seen a change. And anyone involved in watching the effect of new rules/laws in aviation knows that it is extremely early days for making any conclusion at all.

    1. How is an increase from 1.1787% to 1.4314% (since we appear to be being precise today) not a 21.4357% increase? Regardless of whether or not you want to call it a statiscal trend (which I don’t see Cranky saying here) it is an increase %-wise from last year. It also is an absolute increase from 6838 to 8170, with 9,346 LESS flights taking place. So they are cancelling more flights with less flights occuring.

      Tell me again how that doesn’t equate to a “20% increase in flights cancelled”?

      1. A man went to a doctor because he had a cold once last year and this year he’s experiencing his second. He says to the doctor: “This is a 100% increase in head colds compared to the previous year.”

        The phrase “20% increase” is bad analysis because it is an argument supported more by an emotional reaction to what appears to be a huge increase but which in fact may or may not be a numerically significant change. I’m not going to pull all the data and do the analysis but I strongly suspect that the cancellation rate increase falls within the standard deviation which would mean that there wasn’t a statistically significant increase and that making claims either way is therefore meaningless.

        A far better measurement would be people per 100,000 travelers who have a flight cancelled and for what reason that flight was cancelled. Just because a flight was cancelled doesn’t mean it was cancelled specifically because of the 3 Hour rule. In fact, we’re really not gathering sufficient data to make a judgement on the rule anyway. 20% increase sounds bad but we really don’t know if it is bad.

        In addition, the off-the-cuff supposition of 100 passengers per flight might or might not be a valid assumption. We do know, for instance, that the likelihood of a half full 50 seat regional jet flight getting cancelled is higher than a half full 180 seat 757. Perhaps the average per flight cancelled is 100. Perhaps it is only 75. I don’t know and I haven’t seen any data that would allow for obtaining an average.

        We don’t have an objective measure of weather conditions that occured this year versus last year and what those conditions may have caused in terms of cancellations. In fact, one the fallacies that the 3 Hour Rule was advocated on behalf is that many of the delays that caused outcry weren’t judged in context of both the frequency and severity of weather events in a particular year. The rule was largely advocated on the basis of anecdotal and emotional experiences. (I do, however, believe that there were valid arguments to be made on the basis of some of those experiences but those arguments should have been made on the basis of how we value the health and welfare of an individual person.)

        Indeed, we haven’t even accounted for the impact in terms of what is arguably historically high load factors over the past 2 years versus what the long term norms have been. The restraint exercised in capacity growth over the past 2.5 years is going to effect the rate in which someone may experience a cancellation potentially.

        If Cranky wants to take the FAA to task for blowing its horn over data that is meaningless for objectively judging the impact of this new rule, I’m all in. But to refute the claims the FAA did with equally bad analysis is just, well, equally bad.

        We don’t know and we don’t have the data to know at this point. And when you don’t know, it’s just a whole lot better to admit ignorance than to make pronouncements based on data that doesn’t mean anything so far.

        My apologies for my original bad math. I just simply reacted and wrote quickly.

        1. There’s a difference between “bad” analysis and “the best I can do” analysis. I would love it if airlines would tell me why each flight was canceled, but nobody is talking. So we have to go with the data we have. The point of this post was simply to refute the fact that there was, as the DOT says, “only a slight increase” in the number of canceled flights. There was a 20% increase in the cancellation rate, and that led to more than a thousand additional canceled flights. I specifically addressed the issues with the data in the post and why we can’t draw conclusions, but the point is that the DOT shouldn’t be doing that either. I’ve already looked at weather events in previous posts, so I didn’t bother to rehash it here. As soon as I have better data, I’ll be more than happy to do better analysis.

    2. Greg, I stopped taking stats in high school because it just confused me, but you’re way off base.

      First, 1 cancellation this year and 2 cancellations next year is a 100% increase, not a 200% increase. (1+1=2 stated in another way, each 1 is equal to 100% ergo 100% + another 100% = 200% so its an increase of 100%.)

      Second when calculating a change you take the difference of the two (which in this case is 0.25) and divide it by the older figure (in this case 0.25 divided by 1.18 which equals 21%.)

      Cranky has previously stated that he’s only blogging about this because the DOT is bringing it up. And he also states “Once again, it’s hard to draw conclusions despite the DOT’s need to do so for political purposes.” which pretty clearly states that he is going after the DOT for making this a monthly cheering point, when they really should be silent until at least a year from implementation.

    1. I’d rather get there, than be stuck at an airport.

      I’ve got a better idea, perhaps the airline should have to have secret ballots at 2 hours and 30 minutes, “return to terminal at 3 hours or continue waiting upto 6 hours.”

      1. What about a system like this:
        up to 3 hours on the tarmac – no fine (as now)
        3-5 hours – no fine IF the plane takes off within 5 hours
        5+ hours or 3+ hours if the plane eventually returns to the gate – (big) fine

        This would eliminate the borderline cases where waiting ~3 hours would mean that you get there, while eliminating the long, indefinite waits for a big thunderstorm or other ground stop to pass.

        1. Sorry, the end of that was a badly worded, but hopefully you get the idea: if the flight takes off eventually, everyone should be happy. If the flight is likely to be canceled anyways 6 hours later, then the airline should cancel it as soon as possible.

          1. Fred, what about the situation where the airline operations folks honestly don’t know if they’ll be able to get it off the ground?

            Things are cut and dry when you look at them in hindsight, but the operations folks are often making decisions with less information than they’d like, in less time than they’d like. It simply is the nature of how these things (weather, air traffic, queues, etc) work.

          2. This would be more to reduce the frustration when you’re pretty sure you will have a 3 1/2-4 hour wait (happened to me once), or when you are going to get in line for takeoff at 2:40 but there are several other flights ahead of you. Of course There will be times where you really won’t know, but if your flight has been waiting for 2 hours and probably will be waiting for 2+ hours more with no projected takeoff time, it may be better to at least let the passengers get to the terminal and possibly cancel the flight.
            I think that this 3 hour rule is a bad idea but some people won’t stop ignoring the cancellation stats and insist that they are right, so we might have to look for some sort of compromise.

  7. Nicholas – “””””Honestly, if you look at airlines they make next to no money. Its also exceptionally amazing how large their revenues are in relation to their versus their profits if they even have profits. “””””
    Have you all seen the CNBC special when then did a week in the life of American Airlines? It repeats every so often you so can still see it. Anyway, the reported started out on a 767 flight JFK-LAX. They did the rest of the show and at the end the reporter says “remember the flight we started on”, and he gives the run down on how much that flight cost AA to operate, what they made in cargo fees, ticket sales etc, and that flight make AA $200.00. And if they had sold one less ticket, they would have made nothing which he said sometimes happens. So people think the airlines make money on every flight but they don’t. If your flight is half full, unless every person paid full F/C/Y fares, that airline didn’t make a dime, but it still cost them money to operate that flight.

  8. The passenger got what they asked for. Turn the plane around, lets cancel the flight so no one gets to their destination. BRILLIANT.

    Perhaps the passenger could complain about the food so we could get rid of that… oh to late.

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Cranky Flier