It took years of fighting, regulation, and delays but the DOT has finally started to publish a useful look at airline operational performance. Now you can see the stats by brand (including regional airlines) and not just by operating airline. I think this rolled out last month, but the data has been published going back to the beginning of the year. That means when you see an airline’s numbers now, they’ll include the massive regional operations.
There are five airlines impacted by this change.
- Alaska now includes regional operations by Horizon, PenAir, and SkyWest
- American now includes all American Eagle flights operated by others
- Delta now includes all Delta Connection flights operated by others
- Hawaiian now includes ‘Ohana by Hawaiian flights operated by Empire
- United now includes United Express flights operated by others
This does not include codeshares operated by airlines under their own brands. For example, United won’t include Lufthansa-operated codeshares, because those are branded as Lufthansa when flying. Here’s how things break down.
So far, twin out-performers Delta and Hawaiian seem to be taking the hardest hit when it comes to on-time performance while Alaska has actually benefited from the change.
Below you can see the old mainline-only performance on the left with the total mainline + regional number on the right.
Historically, airlines usually do better operationally when it comes to mainline flying than they do with regionals. A lot of that is by design. If an airline is facing bad weather in congested airspace, it has to make decisions on which flights to cancel or delay. More often than not, the smaller regionals are sacrificed so that fewer people are impacted.
With that in mind, it might seem strange that Alaska actually improved its numbers when regionals were added in. There is a reason for that. I should note that these numbers are wacky since Virgin America wasn’t added to Alaska’s numbers until April. Up until that point, Alaska mainline was either the same or better than regionals, so it’s the old Virgin America operation that’s pulling down the performance.
All the other airlines saw the regionals drag down the numbers, but none was hit harder than Delta. Delta regionals did not fare well in the first quarter of the year, but then they picked up steam after that.
Interestingly, United and American both followed similar tracks with the mainline doing far better at the beginning of the year. But by July, regionals were actually outperforming mainline.
The cancellation numbers aren’t aggregated in the report. I could add them all together, but July is good enough for this post.
Hawaiian and Delta both had nearly no mainline cancellations (technically 0.1%) but regionals were higher. For Hawaiian its small regional ‘Ohana had an astronomical 3.9 percent cancellation rate. Delta’s regional had a 1.5 percent rate. That brought the totals up for both airlines.
United had a good 0.7% rate on mainline but regionals at 2.5 percent made for a large increase overall. And American mainline was awful at 2.3 percent, but the regionals were worse at 3.6 percent. This made American look even worse, naturally.
It looks like lost baggage rates have not been combined with regionals. That’s frustrating since there are some really awful regional performers. The worst, Envoy, is easy since that airline only flies for American. That rate of 6.37 reports per 1,000 passengers from July is easily the worst of the pack. But ExpressJet is next with a rate of 5.46, and we don’t know how that breaks up between partners since it flies as American Eagle, Delta Connection, and United Express.
This bucked the trend in that not all airlines saw regional performance hurt them, at least not looking at second quarter 2018 numbers. Sure, American saw its rate of .06 involuntary denied boardings (IDBs) per 10,000 passengers rise to .14 when regionals were added in, but that is fairly minor. Meanwhile United was at .01 across the board. Delta had .00 (rounded down) for mainline but .01 for regionals, so it wasn’t going to move the needle.
The biggest impact was on Alaska. It had a .37 rate for mainline, but its regionals were at 1.49. The combined .61 rate was much worse than anyone except Spirit which was at .63.
While DOT did start showing total complaints including regional operators, it didn’t normalize that stat by creating a rate of complaints per 100,000 passengers as it does by operating carrier. That’s somewhat puzzling since the data has to be available, but at a quick glance, it doesn’t look like there were any particular outliers anyway.
In the end, does this make a huge difference? Well, not for me or for readers of this blog, because I’ve long compiled operational stats from masFlight that include regional operators. But for the rest of the US that might only see this data, it does matter. Airlines should be responsible for their regional carriers. Delta has already made a big effort to get regionals performing up to mainline standards, but others need to follow. Shining a light on this data, will only help make that happen.