Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Andrea Romano
Updated December 18, 2018

It’s kind of an inside joke that Spirit Airlines is the worst airline in the U.S. But you might be surprised to know that the budget carrier is actually exemplary in one important area: being on time.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, 89 percent of Spirit’s flights were on time in October, making it the frontrunner of airlines with the most on-time departures, Vox reported. In addition, the airline also had the second-lowest rate of canceled flights.

Related: Should You Buy That Cheap Spirit Airlines Ticket?

Not exactly what you’d expect from the “most hated” airline in the U.S., but there’s actually a few reasons why Spirit is currently turning things around.

According to Vox, Spirit’s new reputation is due to a variety of factors, including employee pay raises, locations of flights and their often-loathed baggage policy.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, the carrier struck a deal with unionized pilots that resulted in a 43 percent pay hike back in February. A happy employee, no doubt, can also mean an efficient one as well. In addition, former Spirit CEO, Bob Fornaro, also put forth management and executive bonuses to give employees incentive to be on time, Travel Pulse reported.

But also, according to Vox, the majority of Spirit flights are based in the South, where weather is a little milder (as long as there are no major weather events happening), and lesser number of flights depart from busy, Northeast airports that not only have many weather-related cancellations but can also be bogged down with passenger congestion.

But more often than not, the airline’s baggage policy, most likely the number one reason for customer complaints, eliminates the inevitable traffic jam that happens during boarding, according to aviation economics expert and ICF Aviation executive Samuel Engel. “Carry-ons are the most common bottleneck for aircraft boarding,” Engel said to Vox in an email.

It’s a shame for passengers who don’t know the airline’s policy on bags and therefore get smacked with gate check fees, but for those who are savvy enough, they not only get a cheap ticket, but apparently a smooth travel experience too.

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