Actions Needed to Minimize Long, On-Board Flight Delays
On September 25, we issued our final audit report on Actions Needed To Minimize Long, On-Board Delays, in response to Secretary Peters' request to examine long, on-board delays. What we found is that the severity of the on board delays last winter demonstrates that airlines, airports, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and DOT must work together to reduce long, on-board delays and minimize the impact on passengers when these delays occur. Flight delays and cancellations continue as a major source of customer dissatisfaction and is further compounded by reduced capacity and increased demand which leads to increased passenger inconvenience and dissatisfaction with customer service. With more seats filled, air carriers have fewer options to accommodate passengers from cancelled flights. These delays occurred throughout the system and at many airlines, and, after the severe long on-board delays that occurred last winter, the Secretary asked that we assess airlines' contingency planning for such situations. Overall, we found that: (1) the on-board delays that passengers endured last winter were largely due to airlines' lack of a system-wide policy to minimize such delays; (2) airlines' and airports' customer service contingency plans are still not adequate to handle these occurrences; (3) airlines and airports have best practices and are moving forward with other initiatives to help mitigate these delays; and (4) there are other actions that airlines, airports, FAA, and DOT can undertake immediately to address such situations. DOT should take a more active role in overseeing customer service issues, and we made a series of recommendations to the Department, the airlines, airports, and FAA can take to improve airline customer service and minimize long, on-board delays. Many of the recommendations are not new and date back to recommendations in our 2001 report, which were directed at delay and cancellation problems--key drivers of customer dissatisfaction with airlines.