Best and Worst Airlines for Delays 2010

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Bryan Correira

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The airlines most—and least—likely to get you to your holiday
destination on time.
We’ve
all heard of, or even experienced, the missed family gatherings and crucial
business meetings, the unhappily shortened vacations and honeymoons, and the
unwelcome hours—and dollars—spent while stuck in airport terminals. Flights
that don’t arrive and depart on time can, quite simply, ruin even the
best-planned trip.

That’s
why it makes sense to know, before you make your holiday travel plans, which
airlines have a good track record for on-time flights—and which are most likely
to leave you hanging.

The best
and worst airlines for delays can vary quite a bit from year to year. So, as we
do annually, Travel + Leisure consulted the Bureau of Transportation
Statistics, which monitors the percentage of on-time arrivals for major U.S.
airlines. This time, we checked out the 12-month period ending in June 2010—and
found some big surprises.

First,
the good news: the overall on-time performance for the 18 airlines tracked
jumped almost 4% in the past year—flights arrived on time 79.7% of the time, up
from 76.1% in 2009. That means that just about all the carriers surveyed (even
those at the bottom of the list) experienced some improvement in their rate of
on-time flights.

Within
the rankings on our best-and-worst list, however, there were some big shifts
this year. Several of last year’s high achievers, including Pinnacle and
AirTran, experienced increased delay rates that were significant enough to send
them into free fall in the rankings. Other airlines, like Continental and
United, made up the difference by radically reducing their number of delays,
and nabbing the top-ranked spots from their competitors.

The
reasons for such dramatic changes can be harder to ascertain than the
performance rates themselves. But the causes reported for delays by the
airlines surveyed (also collected by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics)
cite late-arriving connecting flights, air-traffic-control issues, airplane
maintenance or repair, and bad weather as the most frequent problems. Year to
year, depending on their routes, hubs, personnel, and equipment, certain
airlines may experience a bigger share of those troubles.

For us
travelers, however, the only concern on our minds as the holidays approach is
likely to be “What airline is going to get me to Grandma’s house in time for
Thanksgiving dinner?” Read our list and find out.

Best and Worst Airlines for Delays 2010

The airlines most—and least—likely to get you to your holiday
destination on time.
We’ve
all heard of, or even experienced, the missed family gatherings and crucial
business meetings, the unhappily shortened vacations and honeymoons, and the
unwelcome hours—and dollars—spent while stuck in airport terminals. Flights
that don’t arrive and depart on time can, quite simply, ruin even the
best-planned trip.

That’s
why it makes sense to know, before you make your holiday travel plans, which
airlines have a good track record for on-time flights—and which are most likely
to leave you hanging.

The best
and worst airlines for delays can vary quite a bit from year to year. So, as we
do annually, Travel + Leisure consulted the Bureau of Transportation
Statistics, which monitors the percentage of on-time arrivals for major U.S.
airlines. This time, we checked out the 12-month period ending in June 2010—and
found some big surprises.

First,
the good news: the overall on-time performance for the 18 airlines tracked
jumped almost 4% in the past year—flights arrived on time 79.7% of the time, up
from 76.1% in 2009. That means that just about all the carriers surveyed (even
those at the bottom of the list) experienced some improvement in their rate of
on-time flights.

Within
the rankings on our best-and-worst list, however, there were some big shifts
this year. Several of last year’s high achievers, including Pinnacle and
AirTran, experienced increased delay rates that were significant enough to send
them into free fall in the rankings. Other airlines, like Continental and
United, made up the difference by radically reducing their number of delays,
and nabbing the top-ranked spots from their competitors.

The
reasons for such dramatic changes can be harder to ascertain than the
performance rates themselves. But the causes reported for delays by the
airlines surveyed (also collected by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics)
cite late-arriving connecting flights, air-traffic-control issues, airplane
maintenance or repair, and bad weather as the most frequent problems. Year to
year, depending on their routes, hubs, personnel, and equipment, certain
airlines may experience a bigger share of those troubles.

For us
travelers, however, the only concern on our minds as the holidays approach is
likely to be “What airline is going to get me to Grandma’s house in time for
Thanksgiving dinner?” Read our list and find out.

Bryan Correira

Best and Worst Airlines for Delays 2010

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