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Amid Record Flight Disruptions, Critics Question Why DOT Not Cracking Down

John Yoon was expecting a two-hour trip home to Montreal after visiting family in Philadelphia. Instead, he got four flight cancellations over five days, a $500 car rental and a 10-hour drive.

Yoon was successively booked, canceled and rebooked on a single flight, a thing that wouldn’t normally come as a surprise to anyone who knew the flight’s or the airline’s history.

The flight Yoon booked was sold and scheduled by Air Canada and was to be flown by its largest Air Canada Express regional carrier, Jazz Aviation. With an increase of than 37,000 scheduled U.S. flights in 2022, Jazz may be the nation’s busiest foreign airline and at the mercy of both U.S. and Canadian regulations.

Jazz Aviation also offers the best rate of cancellations of any airline operating in the U.S., at 10.8 percent or even more than four times the common for several U.S. flights, in accordance with a Newsweek analysis of data supplied by flight tracking firm FlightAware. Over fifty percent the airline’s flights have already been canceled or delayed this season. Round the Fourth of July, among the busiest holidays of the entire year, greater than a quarter of its flights were canceled and another 59 percent were delayed.

Despite having this season shaping around be considered a record year for flight cancellations, Yoon’s flight sticks out. It’s been canceled about one from every three times it’s been scheduled since May, based on the analysis.

Trouble Taking Off
Air Canada’s regional Air Canada Express carrier Jazz Aviation may be the U.S.’s busiest foreign airline. In addition, it gets the highest cancellation rate of any airline operating in the U.S., in accordance with a Newsweek analysis of data from flight tracking firm FlightAware. Above, a plane displaying the Air Canada Express logo will take off in 2018 from Newark Liberty Airport as seen from Elizabeth, NJ.Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

That is the sort of record U.S. Department of Transportation officials have said could violate rules contrary to the unrealistic scheduling of flights, when airlines sell tickets for flights unlikely to depart. But there’s been no public disclosure of any enforcement steps so when of Friday customers could still purchase seats on the flight for travel through October.

Yoon’s flight could be an extreme examplefrom an airline with many of themof what some experts say will be the real reasons 2022 is on the right track to possess more cancellations than nearly every other. It isn’t inclement weather, a shortage of pilots or COVID-19, but instead airlines failing woefully to adjust schedules because of those challenges or regulators failing woefully to stop them from doing this.

Consumer advocate and aviation expert William McGee, of the American Economic Liberties Project, said the transportation department has didn’t use its capacity to enforce regulations when confronted with an unprecedented summer of cancellations.

“Plenty of that is squarely on (Transportation Secretary Pete) Buttigieg to intensify and begin protecting consumers because it has been unacceptable,” McGee said.

Paul Hudson, president of the airline passenger advocacy group FlyersRights, said strong regulations and enforcement are fundamental to preventing airlines from unrealistically scheduling their flights since it makes the practice more expensive.

“They will have your money and you also have to proceed through lots of exercises to really get your cash back,” Hudson said. “Therefore that it is profitable for a few of the airlines to get this done. They schedule predicated on demand, not predicated on their capacity to really fly the flights.”

But, Hudson said, “The DOT is eternally lax on enforcement.”

Airports with Highest Rates of Delays and Cancellations

Flights were more prone to be canceled or delayed at Canada’s Toronto Pearson International than at the other 100 busiest airports on earth between July 28 and Aug. 4, in accordance with data supplied by flight tracking firm FlightAware. Montreal-Trudeau International ranked third.

Airport Scheduled Canceled Delayed % Canceled or Delayed
Toronto Pearson 4,026 210 1,823 50%
Humberto Delgado (Lisbon) 2,495 21 1,225 50%
Montreal-Trudeau 2,033 50 957 50%
Frankfurt 4,460 40 2,087 48%
Athens 2,772 1 1,205 44%
London Gatwick 3,176 4 1,334 42%
Paris Charles de Gaulle 4,741 11 1,881 40%
Munich 3,463 7 1,362 40%
Harry Reid (NEVADA) 4,537 142 1,635 39%
Istanbul 5,173 9 2,014 39%

The Department of Transportation and Jazz Aviation didn’t react to requests for comment. In a statement, Air Canada said it recently reduced some flight schedules and is focused on creating improvements.

In June, Buttigieg met with airline officials to go over steps being taken up to reduce cancellations and delays on the July 4 weekend.

In a July 10 interview on Fox News, Buttigieg said the department has several ongoing air passenger protection investigations and that airlines showed improvement between your Memorial Day and Fourth of July holidays in setting realistic schedules. The cancellation rate of U.S. flights declined from 2.3 percent to at least one 1.9 percent between your holiday periods, based on the Newsweek analysis.

“We’ve seen movement in the proper direction. Definitely fewer cancellations and delays,” Buttigieg said. “We actually want to see them push toward 1 percent roughly with realistic scheduling, responsible customer support and everything airlines should do to properly service the tickets they are selling to passengers.”

Buttigieg Notes Progress
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg met with airline leaders in June to go over how they’re addressing 2022’s rash of flight cancellations. In a July 10 Fox News interview, he noted that the cancellation rate of U.S. flights had declined between your Memorial Day and Fourth of July holidays. Above, he testifies prior to the Senate Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development on April 28, 2022, in Washington, DC. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Up to now this year, a lot more than 144,000 U.S. flights have already been canceled, a year-to-date total that exceeds any on record apart from for 2020, once the start of COVID-19 pandemic led to a rash of flight disruptions, the Newsweek analysis found.

‘Regulations are just as effective as their enforcement.’

Jeff Guzzetti, a former U.S. Department of Transportation assistant inspector general with nearly four decades in the aviation industry, said the rash of cancellations isn’t primarily due to weather, a shortage of pilots or other factors airlines may face at varying levels in virtually any year, but instead their try to maintain a flight schedule that’s too aggressive given those challenges.

“I’d just say they blew it with regards to forecasting the staff they needed,” Guzzetti said. “They saw the crushing demand and said, ‘Let’s make an effort to meet this demand.'”

Some airlines have fared better in 2022 than others, though, in accordance with Newsweek’s analysis. On the list of 10 busiest airlines operating in the U.S., Delta gets the lowest cancellation rate at 1.7 percent or even more than 10,400 flights and Republic Airways, that is a regional partner of Delta, gets the highest at 5.6 percent or even more than 12,300 flights.

In comparison, Jazz Aviation has canceled a lot more than 4,000 U.S. flights or 10.8 percent of its a lot more than 37,000 scheduled departures. A lot of its routes have observed a lot more frequent cancellations.

Near Record Year for Cancellations
Up to now this year, a lot more than 144,000 U.S. flights have already been canceled, a year-to-date total that exceeds any on record apart from for 2020, once the start of COVID-19 pandemic led to a rash of flight disruptions, a Newsweek analysis of data from flight tracking firm FlightAware found.DANIEL ROLAND/AFP via Getty Images

The airline’s daily morning service from Pittsburgh to Toronto has been canceled 46 percent of that time period it’s been scheduled since May. Its daily morning flight from Newark to Toronto hasn’t departed half enough time since May. An everyday morning flight from NY to Montreal includes a cancellation rate of 33 percent since May.

Those flights’ records come near or exceed what the DOT has listed as types of “unrealistic and deceptive scheduling,” that is prohibited under U.S. regulations. Officials said in a 2009 update to the rule that it might include “a flight that’s canceled 30 percent of that time period for a sustained time period.”

The rule pertains to all airlines operating in the U.S., including Jazz Aviation, but large U.S. carriers must submit reports to the DOT listing chronically delayed flights, which are those canceled or delayed a lot more than 30 minutes over fifty percent enough time for a thirty day period. Beneath the department’s rules, one type of unrealistic scheduling is really a flight that’s chronically delayed for four months in a row.

The biggest U.S. airlines reported 351 chronically delayed flights to the department for May, the newest data available. None have already been chronically delayed for a lot more than 8 weeks.

In accordance with Newsweek’s analysis, Jazz Aviation had 87 chronically delayed flights in-may, which is a lot more than what Delta Airlines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines reported to the DOT for that month combined.

None of Air Canada’s Jazz Aviation flights have already been chronically delayed for four consecutive months, the analysis found, but several may soon be. Only 38 of the 380 U.S. Jazz flights scheduled between April and July were flying for that entire period. Of the 125 flights which have been flying since May, 51 were chronically delayed in-may, June and July. Of the 57 Jazz flights operating since June, 43 were chronically delayed in June and July.

McGee said the airline industry includes a higher rate of passengers not using vouchers they could have accepted for a canceled flight, a thing that could boost profits. He said no-one beyond your airlines knows if the carriers are intentionally scheduling flights they can not fulfill, however the DOT will get out via an enforcement action.

“Regulations are just as effective as their enforcement. And, you understand, we’ve not seen lots of proof DOT enforcing it for U.S. airlines aside from foreign airlines, however they should,” McGee said. “The truth is, if you are advertising the merchandise, then you need to deliver it and that is what it boils down to.”

Although transportation department has said it has ongoing airline investigations, no public enforcement notices or actions linked to unrealistic airline scheduling have already been released.

That has been false in 2020, once the department issued two enforcement notices to all or any airlines threatening action should they didn’t offer prompt, full refunds to the initial type of payment for the countless flights canceled due to COVID-19. Initially, many airlines were only offering vouchers for future travel, that your DOT has long said is illegal.

The DOT received a lot more than 89,000 refund complaints from consumers in 2020, that was 57 times a lot more than the full total for 2019. It earned retirees and personnel from other offices to process the onslaught and initiated investigations of 20 airlines, 18 of these foreign airlines. Ten of these investigations are ongoing.

Half of Flights Canceled or Delayed
Half the flights of Air Canada’s regional carrier Jazz Aviation, which frequently flies with the Air Canada Express livery shown above, have already been cancelled or delayed in 2022, in accordance with a Newsweek analysis of data from flight tracking firm FlightAware. The plane above sometimes appears at a gate of Montreal-Trudeau AIRPORT TERMINAL on Nov. 10, 2021.DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images

Among those refund investigations was of Air Canada, that was accused of failing woefully to offer timely refunds. The department reached a $4.5 million settlement with the airline in November 2021, the best it has ever assessed.

Air Canada along with other airlines have questioned whether U.S. law requires refunds for canceled flights. The DOT holds that failing woefully to refund fares for a flight that didn’t fly violates a law forbidding unfair and deceptive practices, but recently began the procedure of incorporating its interpretation of regulations into official rules. Similar rulemakings took greater than a year.

Guzzetti, who oversaw audits of the DOT’s office of aviation consumer protection, said even yet in normal times the office’s small staff likely must prioritize some investigations over others given their limited resources and how labor-intensive investigations of airlines could be. He said the onslaught of COVID-19 refund complaints only underscores those points.

“Just doubling or tripling their employees will be a drop of water in a gigantic bucket to check into those complaints,” Guzzetti said.

Consumer advocates, that are frustrated with the years it has had for refund investigations to be completed, said the existing situation is nothing new. The department has long known airlines were flouting regulations when handling refunds and contains always been lax in enforcing all rules, Hudson said.

“The main reason will there be is a insufficient will and effort,” Hudson said. “There might be some resources which are lacking, however they don’t appear to desire to fill that gap which went on for several years.”

Canadian airports fighting cancelled flights and delays also

Air Canada said it recently reduced its July and August schedules and pointed to security screening delays, baggage system outages and air traffic control limitations as a number of the factors behind flight disruptions.

“Air Canada has focused on continuing its use all third parties to help expand stabilize and improve all areas of the air transport ecosystem,” the statement said.

Flights of other airlines between your U.S. and Canada haven’t had exactly the same cancellation rates as Air Canada’s Jazz Aviation’s flights.

For example, two American Airlines flights flown by regional carrier Piedmont Airlines offering daily morning and afternoon service between Philadelphia and Montrealthe same route as Yoon’s flighthave been canceled once since May 12, based on the Newsweek analysis of FlightAware data. Yoon’s flight has been canceled 28 times on the same period. Piedmont has canceled 2.5 percent of most of its scheduled flights because the start of year while Jazz has canceled 10.8 percent.

Canadian regulations can in some instances require more of airlines when flights are canceled than U.S. law, including providing passengers with meals, hotel arrangements and a payment as high as $1,000.

Those are requirements much like EU regulations praised by many air passenger advocates, but Gbor Lukcs, president of the Canadian air passenger advocacy group Air Passenger Rights, said they work dramatically differently used.

Lukcs, who currently recommends avoiding Canadian airlines and airports due to massive disruptions, said Canadian law “provides so many loopholes that it looks good only in some recoverable format.”

Unlike with E.U. cash compensation rights, Lukcs said way too many cancellation circumstances are exempted under Canadian regulations, including some maintenance issues and airport operations disruptions. Canadian regulations also don’t guarantee a refund to the initial type of payment for most canceled flights, unlike in the U.S. or the E.U.

Lukacs said airlines which are over-scheduling is only going to stop when it affects their profits.

“If it’s just bad press, there is nothing likely to change,” Lukacs said. “It must be found on underneath line before they actually start attending to.”

Canadian airports have struggled a lot more than others with delays and cancellations come early july, with reports of security lines snaking out airport entrance doors, baggage going missing and massive crowds.

From July 28 to August 4, Toronto Pearson AIRPORT TERMINAL ranked first on the list of world’s 100 busiest airports because of its percentage of flights which were canceled or delayed (50.5 percent) and MontralTrudeau AIRPORT TERMINAL ranked third (49.5 percent), in accordance with FlightAware data. Lisbon AIRPORT TERMINAL (49.9 percent) ranked second.

In a statement to Newsweek, the Canadian Transportation Agency said it primarily enforces passenger protection regulations by deciding individual consumer complaints, including ordering airlines to cover refunds or compensation. Of the 54,609 air passenger protection complaints received since Jan. 1, 2019, 17,530 remain unresolved, the statement said.

The countless cancellation notices Yoon received for his disrupted visit to Montreal all gave exactly the same explanation: “The impacts of COVID-19.”

Yoon have been in Philadelphia visiting a sick relative along with his mother, who also were left with a day-long rental car drive back with him after quitting on attempts to fly. Yoon received a voucher for his canceled flight, but is seeking a refund and compensation for the disruption.

“It had been quite the knowledge. I don’t wish to accomplish it again,” Yoon said. “To any extent further, easily can drive, I will not take the opportunity. I’ll drive instead of fly Air Canada.”

U.S. AIR PASSENGER RIGHTS

Consumer advocates say passengers on U.S. flights tend to be unacquainted with rules enforced by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Violations of the guidelines could be reported to the DOT, which includes more detail concerning the rules on its website, including some exceptions in their mind. Advocates say reading airline policies can be important since they may guarantee more benefits than rules require.

  • Airlines must provide a full refund to the initial type of payment in case a flight is canceled or significantly changedexperiences an extended delay or diversionand passengers usually do not desire to accept what other arrangements an airline offers.
  • On flights within or from the U.S., passengers denied boarding due to an overbooked flight must receive another flight free of charge and a payment as high as $1,550. The total amount depends upon just how much later they’ll reach their destination, whether it’s a global flight and just how much their original ticket cost.
  • With exceptions for safety, security and airport operations, U.S. airlines must allow passengers to disembark in case a plane is delayed on the tarmac for three hours for a domestic flight or four hours for a global flight. Water and food should be provided within two hours along with medical assistance and bathrooms.
  • Airlines must compensate passengers for costs incurred as the mishandling of bags, like the cost of buying replacement clothes or toiletries and the worthiness of the bag and its own contents. The limits are $3,800 for domestic flights and about $1,750 for most international flights.

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