Facing steep fines for tarmac delays, domestic airlines have actively been reducing the amount of delays announced the Department of Transportation on Thursday.
The DOT reported that only five planes were delayed for more than three hours this past May. That’s a huge reduction when compared to the 34 flights that were delayed during the same time period last year.
May’s delays were the second-lowest monthly total recorded since the DOT started monitoring airline delays in October 2008.
May was also the first full month that a new federal rule went into effect that requires U.S. airlines to release passengers off planes for delays of more than three hours. Airlines failing comply to the rule can be fined up to $27,500 per passenger.
The new fees had airlines reducing the number of delays even in the months leading up to the implementation of the rule in April, when only four delays were reported. And though the rule was still several months away, long delays in March of 2010 only accounted for 25 instances compared to the 88 delays in March of 2009.
The drop in delays has many airline experts claiming victory for the DOT. However, The Air Transport Association, an organization that represents many of the nation’s big airlines, has pointed out that the lack of delays not only can be attributed to good behavior on behalf of the airlines, but also has to do with good weather.
Of the five flight delays in May, four were United Airlines flights en route to Denver on May 26. The United flights were diverted to Colorado Springs because of weather.
Delta Air Lines made up the other delay. Both airlines have yet to be fined and are under investigation.
On the flip side, as many airline experts had hypothesized, airlines also chose to cancel more flights in May when compared to last year. In 2009, there were 4,792 flights that were canceled in May. This year the number of flights canceled jumped to 6,716 , reported the DOT.
By Adriana Padilla for PeterGreenberg.com.
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