- A study on airline punctuality found the carriers with the most and least delayed flights.
- Allegiant was at the bottom of the pack, while Delta was the most on-schedule carrier in the US.
- Delays can happen to any airline, but data shows some companies manage schedules better than others.
If you have flown since the travel boom started over the summer, you may be one of the thousands of passengers who have had their vacation plans interrupted or flat-out ruined due to airlines delaying or canceling flights within hours of departure.
The past few months have been particularly rough due to staffing shortages, maintenance issues, and weather causing operational meltdowns.
In August, Spirit Airlines canceled over 3,000 flights citing bad weather, system outages, and staffing problems.
Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines had its own breakdown in October, also blaming weather and staffing shortages, though it says air traffic control issues also played a role. The company has since initiated an aggressive hiring campaign to find more workers, including an employee referral bonus worth $US300 ($AU423).
With the busy Christmas travel season drawing near, passengers may be worried whether their flight will leave on time or if they will be left waiting for hours to get to their destination. However, a new study from the US Public Interest Research Group may help shed some light on what to expect.
The PIRG looked at data from the Department of Transportation between January 2016 and August 2021 and determined which of 10 airlines fared the best and worst in terms of on-time departures. The carriers studied were Alaska, Allegiant, America, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and United.
According to the study, Allegiant and JetBlue trailed the pack with the most flight delays since January 2016. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, a delayed flight is defined as arriving 15 or more minutes late.
In July 2021, Allegiant had just 51.9% of its flights arrive on schedule. Overall, according to the DOT, Allegiant is the least punctual airline in the US with 77.4% of on-time departures since June 2020. It is also the only carrier to fall below 70% since the start of 2021, with just 69.1% of punctual flights.
JetBlue is not far behind with just 71.6% of JetBlue flights arriving on schedule since the start of 2021, with 21.4% delayed flights since June 2020. The carrier particularly struggled this summer with an average of 62.3% of on-time arrivals between June and August.
According to the Official Aviation Guide, a global flight data and analytics provider, most people in the aviation industry would say an on-time performance score of 80% or better is “pretty good,” meaning four out of five flights were on schedule.
Source: Official Aviation Guide
Allegiant and JetBlue are the only carriers in the US to not meet the metric since June 2020. There are six carriers that have had 80-89% of flights arrive on schedule since June of last year, including Spirit with 83.2%…
Frontier with 83.6%…
American with 84.9%…
United with 85.2%…
Southwest with 85.4%.
And Alaska with 88.0%.
There are only two airlines that have had an on-time performance of at least 90% since June 2020. OAG says these are the “very best airlines” but “they remain the exception rather than the rule.” The top two carriers are Hawaiian with 90.4%…
And Delta with 90.5%, making it the US’ most punctual airline, according to DOT data.
While flight delays and cancelations can happen to any airline, some carriers have proven to have fewer disruptions based on the data from the DOT. Delta, in particular, has only fallen below the 80% on-time performance rate during six different months between January 2016 and August 2021.
For travelers flying out over the busy holiday season, prepare for delays by checking your flight status, staying close to the customer service desk, having a backup plan, and understanding your credit card benefits, like reimbursements.