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DOT: Airplane delays are widely underreported

According to a recent report from Jeffrey Guzzetti, assistant inspector general for aviation audits at the U.S. Department of Transportation, flight delays are often underreported at major domestic airports, giving the public "an incomplete picture of the number of delays that actually occur at a given airport or are generated by all carriers."

Philadelphia International Airport offers a good example of the scope of this problem. In 2012, only about 13,800 tardy flights were reported to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). However, in reality, more than 38,000 flights arrived at the facility behind schedule during that year. Nationwide, more than 175,000 late flights went unreported in 2012 — and that's only counting those that arrived at the 35 largest U.S. airports.

Statistical discrepancy fueled by loophole in reporting rules

George Donohue, a former FAA official who now teaches engineering at George Mason University, told the Indianapolis Business Journal that regional flights tend to experience the most delays when airports become congested, because FAA rules tend to prioritize the movement of larger planes that carry more passengers. In turn, this pushes delays off of the official count, because carriers whose passenger revenues represent less than 1 percent of the industry total aren't required to report their on-time performance. Larger airlines are also able to avoid reporting late arrivals by regional partners that fall below the 1-percent threshold.

This is a significant problem, because these smaller carriers represent almost 25 percent of all scheduled domestic flights. According to the assistant inspector general's report, the total number of delays at the nation's 35 largest airports would increase by 25 percent if all late flights were included in the official tally, although the impact would vary between facilities. At 10 airports, including Reagan National in Washington, the number of reported delays would increase by more than 50 percent.

Better reporting system won't fix the problem of flight delays

The BTS has indicated that it is developing new rules to ensure more accurate reporting of flight delays. Lowering the reporting threshold to 0.5 percent of the industry's total revenue would allow the BTS to collect data on 92 percent of scheduled passenger flights, up from about 76 percent under the current rules. However, it is clear that major airlines won't be able to clean up their act overnight and passengers will continue to encounter frequent delays when flying.

Travelers who are looking for a more reliable solution should consider chartering a plane through a private service. Unlike major carriers, charter services don't have to worry about managing global operations and dealing with board-room dramas.

When you travel with Easton Aviation, our sole concern is getting you to your destination in a comfortable, hassle-free manner. We like to believe the quality of our service speaks for itself. And, if your flight is delayed for any reason, you will be able to relax in the cabin of your own private plane, rather than being stuck in a crowded commercial plane or airport lounge.