Flight cancellations fell to decade low in 2023, with American and Southwest faring well


The nation’s 10 largest airlines canceled just over 1% of flights last year, marking a decade low in disruptions to travelers’ vacation and business plans, according to year-end data from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Low-cost carrier Allegiant Air led the way, calling off only 0.68% of its flights in 2023. Trailing closely at No. 2 was Chicago-based United Airlines at 0.74%.
Dallas-based Southwest Airlines canceled 1% of its flights and Fort Worth-based American canceled 1.17% of its flights.
Among the 10 largest airlines, only 1.29% of flights were canceled in 2023, the transportation department reported. That’s down considerably from a 2.71% cancellation rate in 2022, 1.76% in 2021, 5.99% in 2020 and 1.90% in 2019.
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Since 2019, the airline industry has been beset with challenges, from the COVID-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions to Southwest’s epic holiday meltdown in 2022 that left millions of travelers stranded across the country.
In on-time arrivals – a measure of delayed flights – American Airlines ranked third and Southwest Airlines fifth for getting passengers to their destination on time
American’s on-time arrivals represented 78.9% of its schedule, right behind Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines at 83.5% and Alaska Airlines at 81.1%. Southwest’s 77.3% on-time arrivals was only good enough for fifth best, behind United Airlines’ 78.5%.
Overall, 78.3% of the 10 major U.S. airlines’ flights arrived on time.
Overall, airlines also reported a drop in mishandling travelers’ wheelchairs, scooters and baggage.
The Biden administration recently proposed a rule that would allow the government to fine airlines for damaging or misplacing wheelchairs. The Department of Transportation said 11,527 wheelchairs and scooters were mishandled last year 2023.
Southwest took in 212,721 wheelchairs and scooters last year, mishandling 3,460 of them. American’s intake of 146,061 wheelchairs and scooters resulted in 2,589 being mishandled.
Misrouted baggage – a nightmare for travelers – declined for both Southwest and American in 2023.
Southwest mishandled 587,339 bags, or 0.45% of the bags its customers brought to airports under its widely publicized “two bags fly free” policy. That’s down from 655,053 bags in 2022.
American mishandled 800,198 bags, 0.76% of the luggage its customers brought to airports. That was down from 919,211 bags in 2022.



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