US flight cancellations fall to lowest level in at least 10 years

U.S. airlines canceled fewer flights in 2023 than they have in the last 10 years despite being the busiest-ever year for air travel, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

There were 16.3 million flights last year and a cancellation rate below 1.2%, the lowest rate in a decade and almost half of the 2.3% reported in 2022, the department said in a statement


FILE - Travelers at Logan International Airport (BOS) in Boston, Massachusetts, US, on Jan. 7, 2024. Photographer: Mel Musto/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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Travel around the busy holiday season was also "notably smooth" with a cancellation rate of just 0.8% between Dec. 17, 2023, and Jan. 1, 2024, officials said. 

The rate during the same period in 2022 was considerably higher at 8.2%, which included a meltdown by Southwest Airlines that led to the cancellation of 17,000 flights, leaving passengers and their luggage stranded at airports across the country.

The low cancellation rate of flights in 2023 occurred during the busiest-ever travel year, according to the Transportation Security Administration. More than 2.9 million passengers went through security checkpoints nationwide on Nov. 26, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, breaking the record for most passengers in a single day, the TSA said.

"Thanks to the tireless work of our nation's aviation safety professionals, millions of travelers were able to fly safely and without disruption last year," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. 

"We are glad to see this 10-year low rate of cancellations, and our Department will continue to take every step to ensure air travel is smooth and safe for passengers in the new year," Buttigieg added. 

The Department of Transportation highlighted expanded protections for passengers last year, thanks to the launch of a customer service dashboard that details the commitments from airlines.

All 10 major U.S. airlines now guarantee free rebooking and meals, and nine guarantee hotel accommodations when an airline issue causes a delay or cancellation, the department noted. 

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This story was reported from Cincinnati.