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Three-hour delays up 50% on US domestic flights

written by Adam Thorn | February 21, 2020

The number of three-hour delays on US domestic flights increased by 50 per cent in 2019, according to new figures released by the Bureau of Transportation.

The annual statistics paint a grim picture for the reliability of air travel, with overall delays rising and the number of cancelled flights almost doubling since 2016.

The worst performing airline for delays – controversially defined as landing later than 15 minutes after the specified time – was Frontier, with just 73.1 per cent of flights arriving at the slot promised.

JetBlue (73.5 per cent) and United (75.2 per cent) were next.

A United Airlines 737 at O’Hare in Chicago

The best performing airlines were Hawaiian, at 87.7 per cent arriving on time, followed by Delta (83.5 per cent) and Alaska Airlines (81.3 per cent).

Airlines reported 302 tarmac delays longer than three hours on domestic flights, compared with 202 in 2018 and 193 the year before.

However, there was a significant reduction in the number of four-hour delays on international flights – down to just 26 from 61 in 2018.


Meanwhile, major carriers cancelled 1.9 per cent of flights last year, a considerable increase from a low of 1.1 per cent in 2016.

United told The New York Times its poor performance in the release was mostly out of its control.

“United is disproportionately impacted by severe weather when compared to our competitors, based on the geographic location and size of our busiest hubs — particularly Newark,” it said in a statement.


“Additionally, we are seeing worsening weather and much more intense and longer-duration weather events.”

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