Skift Take

Some airlines have done so much to pad their schedules and use other tactics to ensure they make it to gates on-time that it's difficult to know which carriers are actually the most punctual and time efficient. Passengers notice and this strategy likely helped a few airlines make these rankings.

Some airlines make on-time performance a priority while others focus on other in-flight service standards but airline travel intelligence company OAG said Delta Air Lines and Qantas were clear winners in 2016 for keeping flights on schedule.

Delta’s on-time performance (84.29 percent) for full-year 2016 ranked ahead of the other two U.S. legacy carriers — American and United — and behind Hawaiian and Alaska Airlines, according to an OAG report that considered 54 million flights from hundreds of airlines that were operated last year.

OAG’s analysis points out Delta is the largest airline by most flights operated to make its top 20 ranking for most on-time airlines in 2016 and operated the second highest number of flights of any global airline last year. “The thing that stuck out to me more than anything is how strong Delta has been across four of their five major hub airports,” said John Grant, senior analyst at OAG. “We’ve seen that Delta has actually targeted on-time performance as a key differentiator, particularly against United. They’ve worked on it and it looks like it’s been very successful for them.”

Grant said Qantas has also made punctuality one of the main tenants of their turnaround program during the past two years. The airline, with 87.5 percent of its flights on-time, was the most on-time for Asia-Pacific carriers and the fourth most on-time overall. “Punctuality performance and restoring business travelers’ faith has been a part of this journey,” he said.

Though Delta, Qantas and other carriers made improvements this year that shouldn’t overshadow the fact that many mainline carriers have regional counterparts that usually help out the most with punctuality, for example, and can outweigh poor performance on mainlines, such as United Express and United. A new law that takes effect this year will require major U.S. carriers to report on-time performance of half a dozen regional carriers as regulators aim to make monthly performance at the major carriers reflect how well their regional operations did.

Making sure airlines stay on schedule is more important than ever as mainline carriers increasingly face heat from low-cost competitors that threaten to take on their turf and disrupt the market, said Grant. “As we see more low-cost long-haul and we see greater commoditization of that economy product between the mainstream long-haul airlines and low-cost long-haul airlines as they continue to emerge punctuality is going to be a key differentiator.”

There is no shortage of factors that influence airline punctuality and the past year had plenty of examples, from French air traffic control strikes to Lufthansa’s crew strikes to Delta’s network failure. But airlines committed to getting in on-time throughout the year usually recover from these singular, isolated events, said Grant.

Below we look at the full ranking for the top 20 global airlines, low-cost carriers and airports.

Chart 1: Hawaiian Airlines was the most on-time airline in 2016 with 89.8 percent of flights arriving on time, likely thanks to favorable weather.

Rank Airline On-Time Performance in 2016
1 Hawaiian Airlines 89.87%
2 Copa Airlines 88.75%
3 KLM 87.75%
4 Qantas Airways 87.56%
5 Japan Airlines 86.74%
6 Flybe 86.62%
7 Alaska Airlines 86.05%
8 Iberia 85.67%
9 Monarch Airlines 85.67%
10 Sinapore Airlines 85.19%
11 Austrian Airlines 84.89%
12 All Nippon Airways 84.71%
13 GOL 84.63%
14 Virgin Australia 84.52%
15 Delta Air Lines 84.29%
16 Finnair 84.12%
17 Transavia 83.98%
18 Aer Lingus 83.97%
19 Gulf Air 82.70%
20 82.60%

Chart 2: Several European and Asian low-cost carriers rank at the top of the low-cost ranking while U.S. low-cost carriers rank towards the bottom.

Rank Airline On-Time Performance in 2016
1 Monarch Airlines 85.67%
2 GOL 84.63%
3 Transavia 83.98%
4 82.64%
5 germanwings 82.48%
6 Westjet 81.36%
7 Southwest 81.04%
8 Norwegian Air Shuttle 79.23%
9 Thai AirAsia 78.60%
10 Skymark Airlines 78.32%
11 Eurowings 77.88%
12 Frontier Airlines 76.70%
13 Virgin America 76.40%
14 IndiGo Air 75.27%
15 JetBlue 75.26%
16 easyJet 74.73%
17 Spring Airlines 74.50%
18 Spirit Airlines 73.92%
19 Jetstar Airways 73.66%
20 AirAsia 73.50%

Chart 3: Some 11 of the top 20 major airports for best on-time performance in 2016 are U.S. airports, including Detroit, Atlanta and Dallas Fort/Worth.

Rank Airport On-Time Performance in 2016
1 Tokyo Haneda 87.49%
2 Sao Paulo Guarulhos 85.28%
3 Detroit 84.64%
4 Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson 84.67%
5 Minneapolis 84.46%
6 Seatle-Tacoma 83.74%
7 Moscow Sheremetyevo 83.52%
8 Singapore Changi 83.49%
9 Munich 82.85%
10 Phoenix 82.82%
11 Charlotte 82.36%
12 Houston George Bush 82.21%
13 Sydney 81.81%
14 Denver 81.21%
15 Frankfurt 81.17%
16 Madrid Barajas 80.93%
17 Dallas/Fort Worth 80.16%
18 Orlando MCO 80.12%
19 Las Vegas 80.11%
20 Amsterdam Schiphol 79.77%

Source: OAG


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Tags: delta air lines, oag

Photo credit: Pictured is a business traveler checking a departure board for a connecting flight at Frankfurt Airport, where 81.17 percent of flights arrived on-time in 2016. Dan Peltier / Skift

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