The airlines with the most delays

Published 12:26 am Wednesday, April 6, 2022

People Image Studio // Shutterstock

The airlines with the most delays

When you’ve already waited in line to check your luggage, waited to get through TSA screening, and then waited some more for overpriced coffee or bottled water, the last thing you want to do is wait even more for your plane to board and take off. The sad truth, however, is that air travel is a waiting game, especially if you fly with airlines or out of airports where delays are as commonplace as cramped onboard legroom and crying babies.

Stacker went through data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) to determine the percentage of delayed flights among all airlines. We looked at the most recent data available—reported by the airlines to the BTS from December 2020 to December 2021—and defined “delayed” as a flight that arrived at its destination at least 15 minutes after its scheduled arrival time. If two airlines had the same percentage of on-time flights, they share the same ranking. We also identified the most troublesome airport—the one with at least 100 flights during the reporting period and the highest percentage of delayed flights—for each airline.

Both mainline carriers and branded codeshare partners (airlines that only staff, maintain, and operate planes) were considered. You might wonder why Orlando and Aguadilla (Puerto Rico) are the only airports with the worst record for delays for two airlines each on our list.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

You may also like: History of the supermarket industry in America

Markus Mainka // Shutterstock

#16. Endeavor Air Inc.

– On-time flights: 91%
– Airport with the most delayed flights: Orlando, FL: Orlando International

Delta-owned Endeavor Air, which operates Delta Connection planes, may be under the radar; but it boasts the distinction of having fewer delayed flights than any U.S. carrier on our list.

Its excellent on-time status is probably due to the fact that it operates mainly from regional airports, which are subject to fewer delays due to lighter air traffic. But it also operates out of major airports, including hubs in New York City, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Detroit, and Cincinnati—and super-busy Orlando. Its 192 regional jets service 140 destinations in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean with 900 daily flights.

Markus Mainka // Shutterstock

#16. Hawaiian Airlines Inc.

– On-time flights: 91%
– Airport with the most delayed flights: Orlando, FL: Orlando International

Because so many Hawaiian Airlines flights go to the 50th state, where weather delays are relatively rare, its on-time record is exemplary. Hawaiian, in fact, routinely tops on-time performance lists and receives the fewest complaints about cancellations, overbooking, and baggage-handling problems.

With the continual expansion of its routes since its launch in 1941, it now flies throughout the Pacific and the continental U.S.-—even to Orlando, where Hawaiian Airlines passengers endure the most delays. Orlando has the second-worst on-time percentage (24%) of all major U.S. airports because it’s America’s leading family travel destination (i.e. home to Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort).

EQRoy // Shutterstock

#15. Delta Air Lines Inc.

– On-time flights: 88%
– Airport with the most delayed flights: Kahului, HI: Kahului Airport

Delta is the only airline in the top eight on our list that ranks among the five largest U.S. airlines: second in passengers carried and miles flown, third in fleet size, and fifth in the number of routes and destinations. Infrequent delays represent one reason why Fodor’s ranks it as the #1 U.S. airline. Its flights to Kahului (Maui), where airport expansion has been debated for decades, are delayed most often. // Getty Images

#13. Horizon Air

– On-time flights: 87%
– Airport with the most delayed flights: Dallas, TX: Dallas Love Field

Horizon, Alaska Airlines’ regional carrier, serves dozens of destinations in the Western U.S., Canada, and Mexico, with Milwaukee the only destination east of the Mississippi. The light air traffic in Western outposts such as Wichita, Kansas; Walla Walla, Washington; and Dillingham, Alaska keep it on time almost all the time; only two of the 10 U.S. airports with the worst on-time stats are in the West. Horizon also flies to a handful of major Western cities, which does drag those stats down. Its hubs are Seattle, where it started out as a small regional carrier, and Portland, Oregon, while Dallas is the city where you’re most likely to be delayed on a Horizon flight.

DANIEL SLIM // Getty Images

#13. Republic Airways

– On-time flights: 87%
– Airport with the most delayed flights: Lansing, MI: Capital Region International

You know how some wineries produce wines from grapes purchased from growers in the next county—but the growers don’t get any credit when awards are handed out? You haven’t heard of Republic Airways.

The airline operates regional flights on behalf of United Express, American Eagle, and Delta Connection. Republic gets credit for its solid on-time percentage, even though the airline benefit from flying in and out of quiet airports like Bangor, Maine, and Lansing, Michigan—where snow and ice on the runways contribute to the frequency of delays.

You may also like: Major boycotts that changed history

Donaldson Collection // Getty Images

#12. PSA Airlines Inc.

– On-time flights: 86%
– Airport with the most delayed flights: Traverse City, MI: Cherry Capital

PSA operated for a few years in the 1990s as an independent airline but now operates planes exclusively on American Eagle regional routes. Almost all of its nearly 100 destinations are small cities in the eastern half of the U.S. This focus on small cities like Traverse City, Michigan—where winter weather delays make it the airline’s most problematic airport—generally keep delays to a minimum.

LJ Jones // Getty Images

#10. Envoy Air

– On-time flights: 85%
– Airport with the most delayed flights: Burlington, VT: Burlington International

Envoy, like PSA, is an airline you’ve never heard of because they “only” staff, maintain, and operate American Eagle planes, while American Airlines handles the sales, marketing, and scheduling of flights.

Also like PSA, Envoy flies primarily to smaller cities—more than 150 destinations throughout North and South America, making it American Airlines’ busiest regional partner. The snows of Burlington, Vermont, can be blamed for Envoy’s mediocre on-time percentage there.

Markus Mainka // Shutterstock

#10. SkyWest Airlines Inc.

– On-time flights: 85%
– Airport with the most delayed flights: Panama City, FL: Northwest Florida Beaches International

Because it serves so many masters—operating flights for American, Alaska, United, and Delta—SkyWest is the busiest regional airline in the U.S. The airline delayed more than 1,300 flights in October 2021 due to a server outage.

Wangkun Jia // Shutterstock

#9. Alaska Airlines Inc.

– On-time flights: 84%
– Airport with the most delayed flights: Adak Island, AK: Adak

Alaska is nearly triple the size of Texas, leading many Alaskans to treat flying like most of us treat driving—although blizzards and icy runways can make flying there a challenge.

It’s safe to say that if an airline can make it in Alaska, it can make it anywhere; and Alaska Airlines has indeed “made it” as a major carrier throughout Canada, Mexico, and most of the other 49 states. Among major airlines, only Delta has a lower percentage of delayed flights. True to its roots, Alaska still flies to tiny Adak Island (pop. 326), where frequent delays can be attributed to the Aleutian island’s fierce winds and 173 annual days of fog.

Sorbis // Shutterstock

#7. American Airlines Inc.

– On-time flights: 83%
– Airport with the most delayed flights: Lubbock, TX: Lubbock Preston Smith International

No U.S. airline transports more passengers than American. Its on-time performance is not bad, though rivals Delta and Alaska do better. Besides 230 U.S. destinations, the behemoth flies to 121 foreign destinations in 62 countries on every continent except Africa. A recent $42 million renovation of Lubbock Airport may help end its status as the worst destination in the U.S. for delays.

You may also like: 30 times history has tanked the stock market

Thiago B Trevisan // Shutterstock

#7. United Airlines Inc.

– On-time flights: 83%
– Airport with the most delayed flights: Aguadilla, PR: Rafael Hernandez

United paid a record $1.9 million fine last year for subjecting the passengers of 25 flights between 2015 and 2021 to lengthy tarmac delays. And it hasn’t exactly improved over the years, slipping from an 85% on-time record (third-best among major U.S. airlines) in 2010 to 83.75% (only seventh-best) in 2020. Delays in the not-so-friendly United skies are most common in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, because it’s a popular beach getaway city with only one departure gate and a 1930s runway due to be replaced.

SOPA Images // Getty Images

#6. Mesa Airlines Inc.

– On-time flights: 81%
– Airport with the most delayed flights: Montgomery, AL: Montgomery Regional

Mesa is a midsized airline that operates jets for American Eagle and United Express. It became America’s first regional airline to exclusively fly large jets in 2010, with most flights transporting passengers from small airports to six U.S. hub cities (Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, Cincinnati, Louisville, and Washington D.C.). If you’re itching to leave Alabama, though, you might need to cool your heels for a while as flight delays leaving Birmingham are common.

EQRoy // Shutterstock

#5. Spirit Airlines

– On-time flights: 80%
– Airport with the most delayed flights: Aguadilla, PR: Rafael Hernandez

If Spirit played on a Little League team, it would be awarded the “most improved” trophy. In 2017, it was dead last (68%) among major U.S. airlines for on-time arrivals. Moving up to fifth-worst ain’t bad, though it’s still in the bottom half on our list. It’s America’s largest ultra-low-cost airline and is expected to merge this year with Frontier in a $6.6 billion deal.

Eliyahu Yosef Parypa // Shutterstock

#3. Southwest Airlines Co.

– On-time flights: 79%
– Airport with the most delayed flights: Chicago, IL: Chicago O’Hare International

Southwest endeared itself to many loyal passengers with its flexible ticketing policy and free checked bags, but its propensity for delays nearly eclipses those benefits. And it does no worse anywhere in the world than at famously frustrating Chicago O’Hare, where delays are something of a regular occurrence due to snow, severe rain, staffing shortages, and simply too many flights on any given day.

Angel DiBilio // Shutterstock

#3. Frontier Airlines Inc.

– On-time flights: 79%
– Airport with the most delayed flights: Newark, NJ: Newark Liberty International

There’s one list that Frontier tops by a wide margin, but you won’t see it in any of the airline’s ads. It was #1 by far in the number of complaints per passenger between July 2020 and September 2021. Those complaints weren’t only about delays, but its on-time record is far from stellar, as you can see by its position in this ranking. Worst-case scenario: Your flight is delayed for hours while you’re stuck in Newark—the U.S. airport with the worst record for delays.

You may also like: History of gold and which countries have the most

Leonard Zhukovsky // Shutterstock

#2. JetBlue Airways

– On-time flights: 75%
– Airport with the most delayed flights: Ontario, CA: Ontario International

Maybe there’s a reason for the name. Too many JetBlue passengers sing the “Jet Blues” while waiting, sometimes for hours, at their boarding gates. The budget airline flies to more than 100 destinations throughout the Americas (as well as London). Its on-time record is hurt by flying mostly to major cities with high air-traffic volume, but so do most of the major airlines that have better on-time stats, which led the Wall Street Journal to declare JetBlue the worst airline in the U.S.

Eudaimonic Traveler // Shutterstock

#1. Allegiant Air

– On-time flights: 73%
– Airport with the most delayed flights: Myrtle Beach, SC: Myrtle Beach International

If a baseball team wins 73% of its games, it’s World Series-worthy. But if an airline is only on time 73% of the time, it’s … well, it’s Allegiant, which has a well-deserved reputation for delays and other problems (including an abysmal safety record revealed in a “60 Minutes” segment). In its defense, it’s an ultra-low-cost airline, so you’re essentially paying for the strong possibility that your flight won’t leave on time. On the bright side, if you’re in Myrtle Beach, where delays are most common, you might have time to hit the sand for some extra tanning.

You may also like: History of oil in America