The Most and Least Punctual Airlines in the U.S.

by Daniel Nikulin

If there’s ever a low-season for business travel, it’s during the dog days of summer. That magical time of year when the well-travelled receive a respite from their road-weary ways and get to enjoy some of the spoils of their hard work and extensive travel in the form of vacation time.

This is also a good time for airlines to sharpen their saw, so to speak. To take stock of their operations and make fixes if need be – to fine tune things. In North America, summers are undoubtedly more about leisure travel, taking some of the edge off, but airlines still aim to deliver on their task of getting you to-and-fro on time. It’s like rehearsing for the soon-to-come high-season of business travel that’s always just around the corner.

Having said that, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, this July saw just over 75% of all flights operated by U.S. airlines on time in American airports.

Alaska Airlines had the best on-time record, with almost 90% of flights arriving within 14 minutes of schedule. The worst offender was low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines, with only 63% of their flights punctual or within the allowable leeway.

America’s four largest carriers were all in the middle of the pack, led by Delta, followed by United, Southwest and American Airlines.

In terms of flight cancellations, Alaska Airlines also led the way, with just .1% of their service halted. Hawaiian and Delta rounded out the top 3. ExpressJet was by far the worst, cancelling 5.3% of their service in July.

Overall, in the past 12 months (ending July, 2016), Hawaiian Airlines posted the best on-time performance record of any of the 12 largest U.S. carriers, with 90.1% of flights on time. Alaska wasn’t far behind (87.4%), followed by third place Delta (87%), United (82.3%) and SkyWest (81.8%).

The three worst showings were by Virgin America, JetBlue and Spirit, whose 71.2% on-time rating took home the least desirable prize.

While Hawaiian Airlines may have the 12-month lead, they hardly face the same challenges many of the other carriers do, mainly due to geography and the routes they serve. A hub in Honolulu is vastly different from a hub in Seattle or Anchorage. For this reason alone, Alaska Airlines, Delta and United are all relatively safe bets for the most punctual flight south of the border.

As business travel is poised to take centre stage again with on-time performance paramount, let the above figures be a guide as to who you should travel with to make that all important meeting, trade show or conference.

Read the department’s full and detailed report here.


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