Arriving on time is one of the biggest areas of concern for most travelers, after ticket price and leg room. And some airlines are way better at this than others. Let's take a look the the July stats from the Department of Transportation, to see who's on top of their game.
The airlines with the best on-time performance in July, 2014 are as follows:
- Hawaiian Airlines — 89.1%
- Delta Air Lines — 85.1%
- Alaska Airlines — 83.9%
- Virgin America — 80.8%
- Frontier Airlines — 77.5%
- United Airlines — 75.0%
- American / US Airways — 74.6%
- Southwest / AirTran — 71.4%
- jetBlue — 65.0%
Most people realize that Hawaiian has the best performance because they fly to Hawaii, which hardly ever has bad weather issues. But in case you didn't know, there ya go. Delta used to be notorious for late flights years ago, but since their bankruptcy and merger, they're flying high with great stats and high profits. What do you consider a "good" on time performance number? I put that mark at about 75%. Or in other words, if an airline gets me there on time 3 out of every four times, that's pretty decent. Of course it always seems like that one late flight always happens at the worst possible time.
Location also has a lot to do with the equation. At Atlanta (ATL) for example, Delta's on time performance was 87.9 percent, but United's was a pitiful 37.9 percent. Looking at overall performance from major hubs, JFK had the worst on time performance, at 67.4 percent, followed closely by SFO at 68.0 percent.The airports with the best performance all happen to be Delta hubs: Salt Lake City (86.0), Atlanta (84.5), Detroit (84.3), and Minneapolis (83.4). Obviously, these stats change seasonally, and we can expect SLC, DTW and MSP to drop as we come into the winter months.
Southwest and jetBlue are two of the most-loved airlines in the country when it comes to customer service, but are customers willing to excuse flights that are frequently late? The report also listed flights that were chronically late for three consecutive months. All three of those flights are operated by Southwest, and average over an hour late. Southwest's flight 2288 from New York LaGuardia to Canton/Akron, Ohio is the worst-delayed flight in the nation. It averages 149.4 minutes (two and a half hours) late. 6.1 percent of Southwest's flights are late 70 percent of the time.
Last summer, Southwest experimented with its schedule by tightening flight times, and added 16 planes' worth of fights without adding any planes to the fleet count. Needless to say, that had a huge impact on their performance. Southwest senior VP of operations Greg Wells said "We gave it our best shot. The combination of weather, higher load factors (fuller planes) and things like that just caused our on-time performance to plummet." This August, Southwest began adding more scheduled flight time (also called block time) to flights and also more time on the ground to allow for loading bags and passengers. While planes only make money in the air, it also takes happy customers who want to give their repeat business. Wells said the airline has been 84.7 percent on time since this recent schedule tweak.
Top image and Delta photo by Getty Images. Southwest image by Paul Thompson