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  • Writer's pictureAir Travel Andrew

The Most Punctual North American Airlines

This article was first published on AirlineGeeks on January 7, 2023

For the second year in a row, Delta Air Lines been deemed North America’s most punctual airline by aviation analytics firm Cirium. The company publishes an annual On-Time Performance Review, in which it measures on-time performance for airlines and airports. In North America, the firm tracked more than five million flights between January 1 and December 15, 2022, capturing over 99% of flights across the continent.

The company’s threshold for an on-time flight is one that arrives within 15 minutes of its scheduled gate arrival time. Approximately 72% of flights tracked in North America during the year were considered on-time.

A total of ten North American airlines were included in the rankings:

1. Delta Air Lines: Cirium tracked over a million Delta flights and over 83% of them arrived on time. This gave Delta the top spot among North American airlines. The Atlanta-based carrier has won this title every year since 2017, though the firm did not hand out awards in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After seeing widespread cancellations and delays throughout its network during Memorial Day weekend, Delta reduced its flying schedule to help improve its performance.

2. United Airlines: In third place is United, with 80.46% of its nearly 790,000 flights being marked as on-time by Cirium.

3. Alaska Airlines: The Seattle-based airline took a close third place in this year’s rankings, despite some operational hiccups during the summer due to staffing issues. 80.36% of the carrier’s more than 240,000 flights arrived on time. Before Delta won the top spot in 2017, Alaska was named as North America’s most punctual airline from 2011 to 2016.

4. American Airlines: The worst-performing of the “big three” is American. Over 78% of the approximately 1 million flights tracked arrived on time.

5. Southwest Airlines: With over 1.3 million flights, Southwest had the highest number of flights tracked in the North American review. Slightly over 74% of these flights arrived on time. Unlike most major carriers, the Dallas-based airline’s network is based on a point-to-point model rather than a hub-and-spoke model. Prior to Southwest Airlines’ recent holiday season operational meltdown, its on-time performance had been closer to 75%.

6. Frontier Airlines: The ultra-low-cost carrier flew over 170,000 flights in 2022 and a little over 68% of them arrived on time.

7. JetBlue: Of the airline’s more than 340,000 flights during the year, over 66% of them arrived on time.

8. Allegiant Air: The low-cost carrier flew almost 117,500 flights this year and a little under 66% of them were marked as on-time by Cirium.

9. WestJet: In ninth place is Canada’s second largest airline. Cirium measured around 90,000 flights flown by WestJet and saw an on-time performance for approximately 59% of them.

10. Air Canada: Canadian flag carrier Air Canada flew over 140,000 flights in 2022. 54.51% of them arrived on time.

It is unsurprising to see that WestJet and Air Canada did not perform very well. Airlines and airports across Canada suffered from staffing shortages throughout the year. Toronto Pearson International Airport, Canada’s busiest airport and home to large Air Canada and WestJet operations, was consistently ranked as one of the world’s worst airports for delays during the summer months.

Despite holding the top spot for punctuality, Delta’s on-time performance has decreased from previous years. In 2021, the airline saw 87.7% of its flights arrive on time and in 2019 this figure was 85.69% (again, Cirium did not publish a review in 2020). This decline is also unsurprising. 2022 was a challenging year for airline operations in North America, with a major resurgence in air travel demand following the end of pandemic restrictions combined with staffing shortages at airlines and airports across the continent.

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