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Paul Hudson 410-940-8934
For Release June 22, 2007

Aviation Consumer Groups Decry False Statistics on Flight Delays: Call for Congressional Investigation and Passage of Passenger Rights Legislation

Washington, DC- An unusual public meeting was held on June 20th called by the DOT Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) attended by over 150 airline representatives on how to fix inaccurate and incomplete data reporting of flight delays and strandings. At the meeting, aviation consumer groups charged the agency was misleading the flying public with flight delay statistics that omit the most serious delays caused by flight cancellations and diversions, called for the agency to correct misleading testimony submitted to Congress by high DOT officials at April hearings on strandings, and suggested ways to fix reporting deficiencies.

Paul Hudson, executive director of the Aviation Consumer Action Project (ACAP), noted that “DOT delay statistics are inaccurate to the point of being deceptive. For example, the agency now admits that there were over 16,000 flight diversions last year but it collected no data on the delays this caused passengers. The DOT also admits that it does not count cancellations, which are now one in 20 flights, as causing any delay. It also has now admitted it fails to record time on tarmac confinements of up to 12 hours, including the mass stranding by Jet Blue at JFK Airport in February that received national headlines.”

“If the agency that is charged with preventing deceptive practices by airlines does not correct its own inaccurate testimony and public statements, it is itself guilty of misleading the public and Congress. Current DOT reports on airline flight delays are like a doctor telling a patient all about his hang nails, but omitting to mention he also has cancer.”

Last week the Coalition for an Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights (CAPBOR) issued a study that detailed the inaccurate statistics and provided estimates based on media reports and verified eye witness accounts of strandings, showing that serious delays are grossly understated in DOT statistics based on airline self reporting.

On April 11th consumer groups testified at a hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee regarding the inaccurate DOT statistics, their testimonies and those of the DOT and the airlines are available on the Committee web site.

Detailed comments by ACAP were filed today with DOT under Docket No. RITA 2007 28522.


35 comments on “ACAP and CAPBOR Decry False Statistics on Flight Delays

  • Statements such as
    “DOT delay statistics are inaccurate to the point of being deceptive.”
    are totally believeable.

    The problem with airlines is a part of the larger crisis in American leadership. Whether it is FEMA, Enron, or Iraq, American leaders are failing at everything they do.

    To fight the airline problems, we must fight the leadership crisis. See: this link

  • Oh god, I don’t even know where to start. I see progress being made, but it’s happening slowly. It’s unfortunate that corporate and politics are bedmates; greed and power go hand in hand in so many industries, and often the little guy at the bottom gets trampled as a result.

    In the 80s and early 90s, I flew constantly. It was fun. Now, rarely – if I can avoid it. Thinking about scheduling and paying for a ticket makes me grind my teeth. Thinking about getting on the airplane just makes me think about how nice it will be to be off the plane and away from the airport as soon as possible afterwards. And hopefully I can avoid being searched and frisked in front of 300 other people in the process, or run over by a people mover, or harassed by an exhausted flight crew, or stranded on the tarmac for hours.

    I really want your bill of rights to go thru and I want things to improve again. People will start flying again, and as a result airlines won’t struggle and slash budgets and hike prices and flight staff won’t be so exhausted and frustrated all the time. If the passenger is treated well again, the industry will improve, and with such a vital industry as this to the American economy, this is only a win-win situation. It begins and ends with the passenger. If you start to treat them like cattle, your service is going to turn into a cattle moving business, not a professional commercial airline. Thanks for your work and go get ’em!

  • This bill of rights is essential. One bad experience is more than enough to make you do everything possible to avoid commercial air travel forever!

  • I’m not sure I buy into the whole “The flight crews are so exhausted and overworked” jargon. There is a reason airlines are now cancelling flights due to hours being pushed past “SAFETY” levels. Those “SAFETY” levels are 100 hours a month. In other words 25 hours a week. I don’t know about you, but I’d be exhausted too if I had to work a whopping 25 hours a week. I fly at least twice each week, and when I stop to think about it, that’s nearly as much as these “overworked” flight crews. Not to mention, when I’m off the plane I work 60+ hours a week in my job. It makes me sick to my stomach when I’m on a hotel shuttle and hear a flight crew go on and on about having to wake up early(usually at least 8-10 hours later) when I have to wake up two hours earlier and work twice as long. I honestly think they had their bubble burst a little bit by the recent bankruptcy cases and now they are seeing how the world treats everyone else. I’ve heard pilots actually call pasengers “civilians” and laugh at our expense – You are NOT in the military any more and we pay your wages. I hear complaints about how they cut wages 40%, etc. I know that sucks, but guess what: If you keep treating your customers like they are beneath you then you’ll be begging for 60% of your former pay – when you’re out of work. As a frequent flyer I try my best to be polite and respectful. I don’t cause any issues with the crew, yet I’m constantly treated like garbage. I hear them complain the most about “business travelers” and how they don’t like putting up with them or don’t think they deserve anything. Well, here’s another clue: Business travelers make up the majority of your revenue. Without them, your position would not be needed.
    If all of the flight crew for an airline tried to go above and beyond, that airline would get more business. If they get more business, you could make a case to get that 40% back, maybe even more than that. I have heard hundreds of accounts of people avoiding particluar airlines because of bad experiences, the airlines that cut down on these bad experiences will thrive, the others will die.

    Just one passengers thoughts.

  • The passengers do have rights but we may be looking in the wrong area for relieve. The airport itself is where we should be looking. The airlines are heavily regulated and are losing money. Have you ever heard of an airport going bankrupt? The airports charge a docking fee, a landing fee, they add a fee for gas delivery, they control the baggage handlers and food consessions.
    Any legislation must include the airport providing free docking gates for passengers to deplane and stay within a secure area if the plane is delayed — at NO COST TO THE AIRLINES.
    These massive architectural gaints that airports are, must be made to take some responibility for the passengers. They must be the ones that provide for the passengers if there are delays. They should (and should have) designed and built areas with sleeping cotts for all those times that when passengers are stranded from cancelled flights. AIRPORTS NEED TO DO THEIR SHARE IN PASSENGER SERVICE.

  • The solution may be to sue the airlines for “false imprisonment”. A class action suit was brought against an airline when attorneys were “illegally detained” and they won the suit. If passengers exercised their rights protected under the existing laws, maybe the airlines would find better solutions to the problems they cause. Deregulation has resulted in customers being treated worse than cattle. What was enjoyable, has become a nightmare for most. More people making videos/complaints may make a difference but when it takes law makers, forever, to pass the laws…it will be a long wait before anything happens.

  • Hello Kate,

    I applaud your effort to try and get a passenger bill of rights. Your anger is justified and should be heard.

    The problem with going after the airlines is that they are not the problem, the problem is the FAA. The rules
    the airlines have to fly under are old and antiquated. The aircraft today are most advanced pieces
    of equipment used for mass transportation the world has ever seen, they can fly from point A to point B
    anywhere in the world and yet the rules say it cant be done that way. Highways in the sky are the only way
    to get from point A to point B and there are a lot of aircraft using those highways. The problem arises when
    weather or an emergency or not enough ATC controllers impact that highway, everything backs up. Couple that
    with the fact the there has to be X number of miles between aircraft at all times and there may be 200 or 300 hundred
    aircraft trying to get on that highway. If you do the math say it takes 5 minutes to get the required spacing that would be
    12 aircraft an hour that you could get in the air and on that highway and that’s from one airport. Now take the next step, There
    could be 200 aircraft from all over the country trying to get on that same highway and the FAA says there has to be that 5 miles of spacing you can see that it will add up to hours and hours of delays. Yet the FAA still wont let the airlines fly routs that would make
    thousands of highways in the sky with only a few planes on each highway.

    The problem is the antiquated rules the airlines have to operate under. Do you really think the airlines want to keep
    people on planes for hours, a plane only makes money when its flying. The airlines and Pilots have been trying for years
    to get the FAA to revamp its rules and the way aircraft have to fly from point A to point B. The FAA is so full of red tape
    and politics that nothing ever gets done. There have been rule changes that directly effect the safety of a flight on the “To Do”
    list for years and still nothing gets done such as Flight crew duty times. Do you know we can be on duty for 16 consecutive hours
    day after day without getting more the 4 or 5 hours of sleep? How would you like it if you knew you were going flying someplace
    and that there would be bad weather the flight crew would have to deal with and they were on there 3rd consecutive day and only 4 or 5 hours of sleep each day?

    That’s right I’m a pilot for Continental Airlines and have been for the last 11 years. I deal with this day in and day out every time I’m at work, nobody knows more then the flight crews how messed up this system is and the fact that the FAA just cant get out if its own way.

    If you want to fix this problem going after the airlines wont do anything you have to go after the politicians that can force the FAA
    to allow us to use the aircraft to its full potentional. There is no reason why I couldn’t go from LA to NY and a different aircraft go to NY from Seattle on a different highway.

  • Question for the Continental Airlines Pilot: Do you get paid when you take the plane to the gate? Apparently American Airlines Pilots don’t and United don’t so there are incentives to keeping the plane out on the tarmac. Blood Clots for the crews have increased over the last few years as have flight times which must concern you. If you have a contract that has you want to keep the plane out on the tarmac, that should be addressed in addition to the FAA and Airline Management issues we believe should be addressed.

    Kate Hanni

  • To the person that was talking about “The flight crews are so exhausted and overworked” Please check your facts and look at the big picture. Flight Crews can only FLY 100 hours a month. Thats 400 or 500 hundred hours on duty to get to that 100 hours a month. Thats not at some crappy hotel that is at the airport getting the flight ready. Do the math thats 13 14 and 15 hour days every day. Just because flight crews can only fly 100 hours a month does not mean thats all flight crews work.

  • I am thrilled to have just signed your petition. I’ve had more than a few bad experiences on airlines but will never forget the US Air flight at PHL (to SFO). We sat on the tarmac for over 4 1/2 hours. I have never been treated so poorly as I was by the stewardesses (and to bad if that is PI). The fly girl were unbelievable nasty as though somehow it was our fault. A man sitting across from me was admonished when he politely asked after 2 hours “how long did they think we might be there?”. I was stunned at her response and attitude. When we finally got going after over 4 hours there was no apology, no food, no comp drink…no nothing!

    Keep up the good work, Sister!

  • Kate;

    We only get paid when the play is pushed off the gate but that is not the reason why we sit out on a taxi way for hours. The reason is that we we return to the gate then we do lose our spot inline for take off. Dont forget that spot also includes not just the planes at the airport we are at but all the planes at all the airports that are going to use the same highway as we are.

  • Yes, but in many instances the planes aren’t in a line up. They are just on a maintenance ramp as ours was in Austin, or on a de-icing ramp or just pulled to the side not in the line at all. Can you explain that? I’ve had many pilots from many commercial airlines telling us that they are upset that they have an incentive to keep us out on the tarmac. Its rediculous. What are your thoughts?


  • Kate,
    The line up can be anyplace a plane can fit if there is 30 or 40 planes trying to take off they cant all fit on the taxi way leading up to the runway. You get put anyplace a plane will fit while you wait. Dont forget if your in LA going to NY and that highway is closed your stuck but a plane in LA going to TX can still leave if that highway is open so they need to get the stuck planes out of the way for the planes that can still go. This is why I said the FAA needs to change the way we are allowed to fly. I can go to NY from LA more then one or two ways, Its nuts that I cant just fly around the weather if I can. I agree it is rediculous that we sit out there for hours, they want us to wait in line as long as we can for a few reasons, people want to get where they are going and the airline wants to get them there. I dont sit for longer then an hour or two because I dont like it either. Again the problem is the fact that we cant fly the way we should.

  • OK, I believe what you are saying. But are you telling me that there is no truth to the fact that many pilots aren’t paid at the gate and must be pushed back to get paid? Is it possible that this ever happens. I’m only asking because United has said in their contract that’s the way it works and they support our cause. They realize it’s illogical and that it needs to be changed. We as an organization want to understand all of the issues so we can fight for the pilots and flight attendants rights and contracts to be guaranteed. That way it’s never a question of whether or not to push back from the gate for personal reasons. I’m not saying you would do it, I’m just saying we have become aware it happens.

    Which airline do you fly for?


  • Kate,

    I fly for Continental and yes its true we only get paid when we push back from the gate. As I have said we as pilots or atleast this pilot dont push back from the gate just because we only get paid when we do. There are a lot of reasons why we push back. If we stay on the gate what should we do with the planes that are landing and are scheduled to be on our gate? Should we make those people sit for as long as we decide not to board? Lets say a place like Newark has weather problem and Continental only has 30 gates, then lates say every hour 30 planes should leave and 30 planes should come in what would happen if 15 of those planes do what you want and dont leave the gate because they have a 2 or 3 delay what do we do with the 15 planes that are expecting a gate but dont have one?

    My point is most Pilots I know dont push back just because they get paid. Sure we dont mind getting in line and waiting an hour or so if planes are leaving even if its at a slower rate then normal. As long as planes are getting out I will wait and hour or two.

    Again the only way for you, passangers and flight crews to fix this is to fix the air traffic system. When an airline does allow something like what went on in JFK with JetBlue there should be something done. There is just not enough space at airports to keep a lot of extra planes on the ground so the FAA should let the planes fly anyway they can to get to where they are going.

  • OK, play along with me here. I know you are a good pilot and I’m sure you never make these decisions and I believe most pilots won’t. However I had a call from a pilot the other day from a major airline, not American, he happened to be on American Airlines going from Wichita to DFW. What should have been 51 minutes took 7 hours. He said it was apparent what was going on. They diverted to Oklahoma City, sat for several hours, when they hit the 4 hour mark in the plane they came on the system and said we are going to a gate for 15 minutes and are going to allow you off to stretch your legs, get back on and we are leaving, then folks re-boarded and they sat for several more hours. Now it appears with American this is happening all the time. Can you comment on that? Since you are with another airline and they have a separate pilots union I hoped you might have a perspective. We are only trying to get at something deeper, like management decisions vs pilots decisions.

    We already know the Air Traffic Control system must be upgraded and that will help. But increasing capacity by 10% would also help which is a management decision right?


  • Kate,

    That flight sounds like a total mess and could have been the Pilots trying to get paid. Without knowing the details I cant really comment. I do know the whole Dallas area was a complete mess with the weather, I was flying in and out of Houston that whole week and we had a bunch of delays because of it. That crew should have stayed at the gate longer then they did but like I said I dont know the details. Every time something like that happens we get what they call update times from ATC most of the time they are in 30 min or 1 hour blocks. So if it was 2pm they would say we will get an update at 2:30 or 3:00. Now the crew should have known that for sure. Also planes that divert get preferance over other planes that have not diverted so that could have played a roll. If that crew sat out there to just get paid then the airline should have to answer for that. I would think that crew just used up most of the profit the airline would have made on that flight just burning fuel.

  • Here’s what I’m thinking. I’m thinking it’s unfair that a pilot is penalized for taking passengers to the gate and letting them be in the comfort of the terminal until they are sure they can take off. We, as a Coalition, would like to fight for the rights of pilots and flight attendants who don’t have contract guarantees. That was what I was getting at in the first place. We are looking for solutions, not blame. I think what’s happened to pilots and flight attendants and all of the workers outside of the management of the airlines over the last few years has been devastating. We would like to see the rewards going to the pilots and Flight Attendants.

    I’m sure you can agree with that.


  • Increasing capacity by 10% would also help which is a management decision right?

    Yes it is a management decision but that is a whole different ball of wax. How would you go about increasing capacity? What markets would get the capacity? Small markets cant fill the increased capacity and then you are making the airlines give up on the number of times during the day that they can offer flights. Lots of passengers want to leave when they want to leave and if X airline does not have a flight they will go to a different airline. More capacity would be great but it would have to be forced on all the airlines because if one airline did it then a different one would just take the extra slot and we would gain nothing, there would still be the same number of flights. One of the better ways to do it would to be get rid of the spoke and hub system and do a lot more point to point flying like Southwest and Xjet are now doing. This way you can avoid the huge delays at the hubs like DAL, EWR, ATL ect ect but that too will have to be forced on the airlines and wont really work for international flights. We need hubs for International flights because of the number of people on those flights. Not sure what to tell you its a huge problem and it will take a combination of a lot of things to fix and we are talking about big business and the government two of the slowest moving entities known to man 🙂

  • Yes I was thinking a Government mandate for a capacity increase for all airlines. Outrageous yes, but I think it’s a possible solution. You are right about the spoke and hub system. Most of the problems i.e. diversions are where the hubs are in areas of bad weather. It seems that Dallas can’t save itself lately. It’s a big animal, but I promise you if they allow passengers deplanement after 3 hours with two 30 minutes extentions that the pilot gets to control, then the airlines and pilots unions will all figure out how to deal with it. I know it will have an effect, but it’s a basic measure of safety for passengers.


  • Hey I agree with you 100% The workers at the airlines have given up billions and billions to try and keep the airlines running after 9/11 and management just sat there and gave themselves big fat bonuses blessed by the government. Until we some people in government fighting for the people that make up the backbone of America I bet nothing gets done because they just don’t care. Or of your effort could be a big enough thorn is the side we may get something done.

  • We have the support of the United Pilots, what’s the possibility of the ALPA Pilots Association?

    We intend to be a big thorn in their side until fairness is brought back into the system for passengers and crew. It’s rediculous.


  • ALAP would be a great place to try and get some support:

    Capt. John Prater, president of the Air Line Pilots Association is a good man and an Continental Pilot. I sure you should be able to talk with somebody over at ALPA (I’m not sure who) but I know ALPA is always trying to improve our system.

  • The New York Times has a great story today on some of the problems with flight statistics.
    It mentions that the DOT is now soliciting public comment.
    It should be no surprise that finding where to submit a comment is just about impossible.
    Does anyone know where we can all submit comments?

  • The New York Times has a great story today on some of the problems with flight statistics.
    It mentions that the DOT is now soliciting public comment.
    It should be no surprise that finding where to submit a comment is just about impossible.
    Does anyone know where we can all submit comments?

  • The New York Times has a great story today on some of the problems with flight statistics.
    It mentions that the DOT is now soliciting public comment.
    It should be no surprise that finding where to submit a comment is just about impossible.
    Does anyone know where we can all submit comments?

  • I am employed by American and our management is consistently rewarding themselves (to the tune of $180 millin dollars and all the while crying poor me.

    Wake up you people flying with AA.

    American could care less about you! There motto is “WE GOT YOUR MONEY”!

  • I thought that American Executives got 218,000,000.00 in bonuses. The Allied Pilots Association came out with a scathing article early in January about this.

    It’s partly why we decided to form the coalition. That we felt the people who work for the airlines underneath management were being abused and under rewarded and management is taking all the profits.


  • Good comments; but the big picture is that we consumers DON’T REALLY CARE who’s to blame and all the finger pinting is, well, pointless. What is needed, as in any revolution, is a few stout hearted individules to just stand up and open the exits and get off of the plane when they are stranded. If our forefathers as American revolutionaries could take on the largest most organized military power we can take on the airlines and the government red tape. After a few hundred slide deployments and the ensuing commotion they will fall all over themselves to get this sorted out!!

  • Would you people just get real? All we want is a stairway. When the plane is truly in the queue for takeoff, less than 30 minutes in the future, board the passengers. The maintenance sheds at all major airports have stairways that could be used to on/offload passengers. These could be diverted in minutes. This entire dialogue is proof that no-one at the airlines is thinking about passenger comfort.

    As for the pilot and crew hours, sorry folks, but 15 or 16 hour work days are short days for real businessmen and it’s time you got real with an expectation for 100 flying hours a month and no “long” days. When the rest of us need to finish a project, we do it regardless of the time we’ve been on it or the time of day, it’s time you did too.
    As a business traveller, I probably fly more per month than most pilots and frequently go weeks and months with 4-5 hours of sleep per night.
    If the FAA is the problem, then why haven’t the pilots put improvement propositions in front of them already? If they haven’t, it’s back to my first point, as long as they have to work only 100 hours a month and make $120+ grand per year, they just don’t care about their customers. Who better to lead this effort than concerned pilots? Or, are you just bus drivers with command of a bit more technology than the average greyhound?

  • I don’t think the powers that be understand how being stranded affects some of us. My husband and I were stranded in San Francisco after arriving from Hawaii several years ago and to this day my wonderful husband has had panic attacks which prevent us from traveling by air together ever again. This man is a 32 year retired veteran of our City Fire Department, and withstood some terrifying incidents, but being stranded on that airplane has made it so we can never travel together by air again. What would the airline do if we HAD to get off of the plane? I SUPPORT THE COALITION FOR AN AIRLINE PASSENGER BILL OF RIGHTS

  • I have worked in all facets of the aviation industry for over 25 years now. Commercial airlines used to be the best employers in the industry. No longer. Does anyone remember flying back in the 60’s and 70’s? Remember when we were treated with respect from counter to gate? Remember when the flight attendents ( called stewardesses back then ) remembered your name? Remember when meals were actually served on domestic flights? Then remember deregulation. Competition is good, right? Now everyone can afford to fly. We seek out the lowest possible fares on Expedia and Orbitz. The pioneers of air travel are in bankrupcy, or are defunct. Low cost, no frills air carriers rule the skys. Does anyone remember the old adage, ” You get what you pay for “? Fares have declined dramatically. So has service, courtesy, and safety. I speak from firsthand knowledge, and care not whether you doubt my veracity. Deregulation was good for lowering fares, but a catastrophe in every other aspect. Airlines are now governed by Cost per Seat Mile. Maintenance is deferred, extended, skimped on. In these days of skyrocketing fuel prices, only the most frugal can survive. Pack ’em in like sardines, feed them peanuts, treat them like cattle. Cut everyone’s wages. It’s survival of the leanest. You asked for it – you got it, and now you complain about it. Me, I now work in executive aviation. I make more than ever, because the clientele pay better than anyone else. They expect, no, they DEMAND respect, but they are willing to pay for it. You can complain about the horrific conditions aboard the commercial carriers, but you, the consumer, got what you asked for. As for me, I’ll pay for my MarquisJet card, and drive my SUV right up to my chartered aircraft, and leave when I want to leave. Sure, it costs a little more, but I am STILL treated like I was back in the heyday of the commercial airlines.

  • My husband works for the airlines-so therefore we are able to fly for free. After having traveled to many wonderful spots I have decided that due to the aggrevation that is caused when flying I will not fly unless I have to. It costs me a lot more money to drive, but in the long run it is worth every cent not to have to deal with the nonsense of the airlines. By the way I finally reached this conclusion after it took us 2 1/2 days to reach Hawaii due to delays.

  • Why would you expect anything else from a federal government agency under this Administration? Other than possibly NASA, *no* federal agency performs it’s original duty any more. The FDA protects huge drug companies from oversight, the EPA protects polluters from inconvenient regulations, and DOT protects airlines from inconvenient exposure of their horrible treatment of their prisoners, I mean passengers. This is all just business as usual now, with emphasis on BUSINESS.

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