There are lots of ways to judge the quality of an airline. Maybe you’re almost exclusively concerned about price or want to enroll in an excellent frequent flyer program. One thing you should definitely be concerned about is whether or not your plane will arrive on time.
The Office of Aviation Consumer Protection recently released its annual Air Travel Consumer Report that offers detailed information on flight delays; mishandled baggage, wheelchairs, and scooters; oversales; consumer complaints; airline animal incident reports; and customer service reports to the US Department of Homeland Security.
The five most on-time airlines in the United States
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- United Airlines
After horror stories last year of Spirit Airlines having mass cancellations and airports descending into utter chaos, the airline ranked six out of 10. The others, in order, were Frontier, Southwest, and JetBlue.
The worst airline for on-time arrivals was Allegiant Air which, during its worst month in July 2021, only arrived on time 51 percent of the time. A flight was counted as “on-time” as long as it operated less than 15 minutes after the scheduled time in the airline carrier’s reservation system. Overall, flights arrived on time 75.25 percent of the time, even with COVID-19 waves causing mass delays and cancellations.
Common causes of delay included air carrier delay, meaning the reason was within the airline’s control — like a maintenance issue. This was true 8.9 percent of the time. Seven percent of flights were delayed because the aircraft was late arriving and, therefore, late departing. Nearly five percent of flights arrived late for reasons out of the airline’s control but had to do with things like airport operations, heavy traffic volume, air traffic control, etc. Other delay reasons included extreme weather (0.77 percent of delays), flight diversion (0.25 percent of delays), and security delays (0.09 percent of flights), which encompasses evacuating a terminal or concourse, re-boarding an aircraft because of a security breach, inoperative screening equipment, or long lines of more than 29 minutes at screening areas. Only 2.42 percent of flights were canceled outright.
Regardless of your airlines’ track record, two to three hours before arrival at your airport is still the rule of thumb to make sure you make it through those long security lines.