Home Airlines The Airlines With The Best On-Time Performance

The Airlines With The Best On-Time Performance

by SharonKurheg

Just about anything can cause a plane to be delayed. It can run the gamut from things beyond anyone’s control (i.e., acts of nature such as weather), to mechanical issues, to circumstances caused by humans (such as air and ground congestion, having to wait for a passenger, crew, connecting bags, cargo, etc.).

However some airlines just seem to have less (or more) issues than others, and that’s….noted.

Cirium is an aviation, air travel data and analytics company with a mission to help the movement of people and goods around the world.  Founded in 1909, they’re headquartered in London and have 12 offices around the world.

For 13 years before the coronavirus pandemic, Cirium published their annual On-Time Performance Report. It was, “the longest-standing analysis in the aviation industry—to provide insights on airline and airport punctuality and recognize those which have outperformed their peers, globally, regionally, and in their respective categories.” The report was put on pause in early 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic impacted so many flights.

However planes are flying again, so Cirium has brushed off what they call The Cirium Core – the “heart” of Cirium, with, “more than 300 terabytes of information from over 2,000 sources.” This is what they use to determine which airlines have the best and worst on-time performance, thereby providing airports, airlines, and the traveling public with a neutral, third-party view of which airlines are delivering on their promise to get passengers from point A to point B on-time.

Save for Low-Cost Carriers, Cirium didn’t have a Global comparison this year, but instead only divided the airlines into world regions. We’ll focus on the On-Time Performance Report for North America since that’s where YMMV is based and where the vast majority of our readers hail from.

Hawaiian took first place, with an on-time rate of 93.22%. That position was held by Delta during the (most recent) 2019 report (85.69%), but Delta is now #3 this year.

Second place went to Air Canada, which didn’t even crack the Top Ten in 2019 (Alaska took the #2 spot in 2019, with an On-Time rate of 82.01%)

Third place for 2021 went to Delta. In 2019, it was Southwest (81.44%), which was bumped down to 9th place this year.

Here are the Top Ten:

Ranking Name On Time % Total Flights Avg. Delay (Mins)
1 Hawaiian 93.22% 4,623 43
2 Air Canada 92.76% 2,962 32
3 Delta 89.71% 68,001 55
4 Alaska 89.16% 17,208 13
5 United 87.63% 40,125 46
6 Spirit 84.94% 18,933 30
7 Frontier 84.82% 12,474 52
8 American 84.34% 73,329 63
9 Southwest 80.23% 89,297 48
10 JetBlue 79.68% 23,254 47

It was interesting that most of the time, the larger the airline, the longer the delays. When it was late, even third-ranking Delta had an average of being REALLY late (55 minutes). Yet fourth-ranking Alaska’s average delay was only 13 minutes.

It was also heartening that the percentage of on-time arrivals has jumped so much between 2019 and 2021.

Click here for Cirium’s complete, worldwide On-Time Performance Report, dated May 2021.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Cookie Wright June 17, 2021 - 3:16 pm

This comment is in regard to a plane landing on time but Orlando International Airport not having any available arrival gates. Our daughter’s plane arrived on time, but was held on the ground for nearly an hour before there was a gate available for them to deplane. This seemed a bit ridiculous to me. Poor planning?

SharonKurheg June 17, 2021 - 3:23 pm

Doubt if it was poor planning as much as something came up. No idea of what happened with your daughter’s plane of course, but, as an example, some planes can only fit in certain spaces. If another (or other) plane(s) was/were still at the gate(s) where her plane could go, for whatever the reason(s), that could be why.


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