Who’s On Time, Who’s Not…The Numbers Are In…

Its that time of year again, the cold winter chill has lost its charm, the sun is setting later and later allowing you to see the black ice on the road for an extra few minutes at night … and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) has released its list of the top (and bottom) on time (and not on time) airlines from the previous year.

The airline at the top of the pile for on-time ratings is no surprise, Hawaiian AirlinesHawaiian Airlines has a long history of on-time performance. This on-time performance is due in no small part it to its relatively small fleet and its limited destinations that primarily fly to locations with decent weather all year round.   This is not to belittle Hawaiian Airlines and their standing as the most on-time airline in the United States with an 87% on-time rating. In 2008 Hawaiian Airlines was tops with a 79.6% on time rating

What is interesting about Hawaiian Airlines‘ 87% on-time rating is that Hawaiian Airlines Flight 5, daily service from Las Vegas (LAS) to Honolulu (HNL) was one of the most delayed flights in 2009, being delayed 87.5% of the time.

Enough about Hawaiian Airlines… the surprises in the release of the BTS 2009 airline performance statistics are the #2 and #3 airlines on the list.

The #2 most on time airline in the United States was Alaska Airlines, with an on time performance of 84%. Last year Alaska Airlines was ranked as the # 2 most delayed airline in the United States with a mere 58.4% of their flights arriving on time. This leap from second worst to second best is fantastic for Alaska Airlines!

The #3 airline with on time performance in 2009 in the United States is an unexpected one, United Airlines. Of the top on-time airlines United Airlines is the only global carrier, which is significant. Additionally, United Airlines’ 2009 on-time performance of 77.3% (which United has statistically averaged at actually 81%) is impressive given its global hub at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, which over the past few years has alone averaged 30% of all flights being delayed. Outside the serious delay issues United faces at O’Hare it moves considerable international traffic from London Heathrow and Tokyo Narita, two other airports known for their delays.

Given the amount of domestic and international traffic United Airlines moves through the delay plagued Chicago O’Hare International Airport, and as well as London Heathrow and Tokyo Narita,  I am happily stunned to find they are they third most on-time airline in the United States … this truly is impressive!

Who is the bottom of the list for 2009 on time airline performance?

#3 – AirTran, with 66.4% of its flights arriving on time

#2 – ComAir (a Delta Air Lines regional airline), with a poor 65.9% of on time flights

#1 – American Eagle (American’s regional carrier) with just a 64.5% on-time performance…yikes!

Want to know what flights to avoid? Lets start and end with US Airways Flight 807 from Charlotte to Honolulu. Flight 807 was delayed a mere 100% of the time … yes folks, 100% of the time!

The airline canceling the most flights in 2009 was ComAir with 6.1% of its flights being sacked, compared to Hawaiian Airlines canceling 0% of its flights.

So what is the total break down of flight reliability in the United States from 2009? Lets take a look by the numbers:

Operated Commercial Flights – 6,450,285

Late Arriving Commercial Flights – 1,218,288

Late Departing Commercial Flights – 1,084,290

Cancelled Commercial Flights – 89,377

Diverted Commercial Flights – 15,463

Percent On-Time Commercial Flights – 79.49%

Percent Late Arriving Commercial Flights – 18.89%

Percent Late Departing Commercial Flights – 16.81%

Percent of Cancelled Commercial Flights – 1.39%

Percent of Diverted Commercial Flights – 0.24%

I’d like to give a thumbs up to Hawaiian Airlines and their excellent track record. I’d like to give two big thumbs up to Alaska Airlines and United Airlines for keeping their eye on the ball and overcoming the obstacles in their way to take the #2 and #3 slots for best on-time performance of a US airline.

Happy Flying!


  1. Kudos to Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines and United Airlines for their rankings. I am not surprised that American Eagle placed last. I travel with them on the Chicago/Detroit/Chicago route several times a year in different seasons and I have never departed on time in the last 2 years from either city. They need to definitely do something about their on time performance

  2. Thanks … once again proving I should never rely on MS Word’s spell checker … it chose “Whose”

    I changed it…thanks again.

    Happy Flying!


  3. I wish someone would track *early* arrivals. Every flight would be “on time” if airlines padded their flight time estimates sufficiently. It seems that since we started tracking on-time departures and arrivals, airlines started padding more. Early arrivals and on-time arrivals after the “we’ll make up some time in the air” make me feel like I’m being jerked around.

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