Allegiant Air, one of the largest carriers out of the Des Moines International Airport, ranked last out of all major US airline carriers in on-time arrivals, according to an August report from the United States Department of Transportation.
The Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report presents data on consumer issues in airline travel based on statistics self-reported by each domestic airline carrier. According to the report, Allegiant ranked last in on-time arrivals out of 17 US air carriers from January to June.
Allegiant flights arrived on time 59% of the time in June, more than 20 percentage points less than Enjoy Air, SkyWest Airlines and Horizon Airlines, which ranked first through third, respectively, the report shows.
Data the Des Moines International Airport provided to the Des Moines Register shows a similar pattern locally.
Allegiant flights out of Iowa’s capital city arrived at their final destination on time 74.46% of the time between January and June, ranking the airline last in on-time departures out of the six carriers operating in Des Moines.
Allegiant also had the highest percentage of delayed flights out of Des Moines during the same time period in 2021, according to the data.
Allegiant ranks in the middle of carriers in flight cancellations in Des Moines, with Frontier Airlines and American Airlines having canceled the largest percentage of flights out of all carriers in Des Moines since January, the data show.
Allegiant: Labor shortages to blame
In June, the majority of Allegiant’s delays were caused by late-arriving aircraft, maintenance and crew problems, according to the report.
Andrew Porrello, the spokesperson for Allegiant, said unprecedented labor shortages also contributed to the number of flight delays that month.
When bad weather caused crew members to reach their Federal Aviation Administration-mandated limit on hours they can fly, Porrello said the airline did not have enough staff for back-up crews.
“These reasons — along with an increase in crews being out of service due to COVID — were among the factors that led to a number of flights being delayed in June,” he said in an email.
The labor shortage is an industry-wide issue, he said.
Earlier in the pandemic, airlines downsized as people stayed home. But with restrictions lifted, folks this summer have been traveling like it’s 2019 again, and carriers say they don’t have enough people on their rosters to fly the schedules they planned.
That’s led to many airlines – American, United, Delta and JetBlue among them – to announce cuts and even end service to some smaller cities.
Experts say it could take as much as a year for things to normalize.
More:More than 1,400 US flights canceled as thunderstorms close in on the East Coast
“We are actively working to mitigate it by offering extra incentives to attract and retain employees, including higher wages, bonuses, work schedule flexibility and more,” Porrello said.
Yet despite those challenges this year, Allegiant also ranked last in on-time arrivals during the same time period in 2021, according to the report.
In general, the report shows a decline in on-time arrivals for all major US carriers so far in 2022 compared to last year. The average on-time arrival rate of all carriers from January to June was 75.89%, approximately 8.4 percentage points lower than the same time-period last year.
The same pattern occurred in Des Moines. The on-time arrival rate for flights leaving Des Moines January through June fell by 4 percentage points compared to last year, according to data provided by the airport.
Despite trailing other carriers in on-time arrivals and cancellations, Allegiant ranked higher in other consumer metrics measured by the report. The airline had the lowest rate of mishandled baggage and the second-lowest rate of mishandling wheelchairs and scooters, the report shows. The airline also reported zero passengers were involuntarily denied boarding due to flights being oversold from January to June.
AG Tom Miller calls for greater airline consumer protection
On Wednesday, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller joined a bipartisan group of state attorneys who called on Congress to authorize them to enforce consumer protection laws on the airline industry, according to a news release.
“Long delays, canceled flights, and endless rebooking have made travel a nightmare for many consumers this year,” Miller said in the release. “As state attorneys general, we hear about these frustrations frequently. Yet, there is nothing we can do to hold airlines accountable for this disappointing behavior. Congress can change that, and they should.”
As of right now, violations of airline consumer protection are handled by the US Department of Transportation. The joint letter submitted to Congress by Miller and others said the agency has “failed to respond and to provide appropriate recourse” for complaints against the airline industry.
Allegiant is the major carrier in Des Moines
Allegiant is slowly becoming one of the predominant airline carriers at the Des Moines International Airport since it began service in 2003.
Last year, the Las Vegas-based budget airline service celebrated the opening of its $50 million base in Des Moines. Since then, the airline has expanded its service out of Des Moines to include Austin and Houston, Texas; Destin, Orlando, Punta Gorda, Fort Lauderdale, Sarasota, Tampa and West Palm Beach, Florida; Las Vegas, Nevada; Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Ana, California; Phoenix, Arizona; and Newark, New Jersey.
American Airlines, which ranked 10th in on-time arrivals in the national report, currently holds the largest market share in Des Moines, according to airport spokesperson Kayla Kovarna. Over the past few months, Allegiant and United have switched off month-by-month as the second largest carrier, according to airport traffic statistics.
Kovarna said she predicts Allegiant will continue to grow in popularity among flyers in the region.
“Allegiant has done a really great job of adding new services that Iowans prefer to fly on. That non-stop service is definitely a coveted convenience. And so I would anticipate that Allegiant continues to grow in the market,” she said.
Whether Allegiant takes over the majority of the market share in the coming years will depend on how quickly legacy carriers such as United, American and Delta ramp up their offerings following a decrease in service during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kovarna said.
USA Today contributed to this report.
Francesca Block is a breaking news reporter at the Des Moines Register. Reach her at FBlock@registermedia.com or on Twitter at @francescablock3.