Transportation & Logistics

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Late Flights: Where They Go, Who is Giving Them

18 Jun, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
New Surveys of Routes, Airlines That Are Often Late

Late flights (and subsequent missed connections, delayed and late arrivals at destinations) are a fact of air travel. But where are they the worst? And whose planes are they? Recently, an article in Fortune discussed some of the most unfortunate travel patters when it came to on-time departures and arrivals.

Data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics show that nine out of the 10 most delayed travel routes in 2014 involved Chicago, according to The Wall Street Journal, which originally reported on the issue.

The absolute worst route to take to land on-time last year? A trip from O’Hare to Knoxville, Tenn., which had its passengers arrive late 44% of the time. The airlines responsible for those flights were American AAL0.33% and United UAL0.47%. That compares with an average delay rate of 23.8% for all airline flights last year, the Journal said.

While it’s a rare team or individual athlete who will schedule a flight that lands only shortly before a competition starts, it’s nevertheless a good idea to leave adequate travel time – particularly in the case of delays that because of flight patterns, could cause an extra night in a layover city.

By the numbers:

While the worst-performing flights have been tracked before, this is the first time BTS has processed all flights on a route over a full year, yielding a more useful guide to trouble spots for travelers. (The data was collected at the Journal’s request.)

Here’s the Journal’s list of the most delayed flight paths in the U.S. for 2014 and the percent chance that there’s a late arrival:

1. Chicago, Illinois to Knoxville, Tennessee: 44.1%

2. Chicago, Illinois to Wichita, Kansas: 43.9%

3. Denver, Colorado to Aspen, Colorado: 43.1%

4. Chicago, Illinois to Birmingham, Alabama: 43.1%

5. Des Moines, Iowa to Chicago, Illinois: 43.0%

6. Chicago, Illinois to Lansing, Michigan: 42.9%

7. Little Rock, Arkansas to Chicago, Illinois: 42.6%

8. Chicago, Illinois to Colorado Springs, Colorado: 42.6%

9. Chicago, Illinois to Lincoln, Nebraska: 42.5%

10. Chicago, Illinois to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: 42.3%

And for those who want to know which airlines have the best and worst records for on-time service, Travel & Leisure’s recent report can shed some light.

Travel & Leisure surveyed the results provided by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics for the 12-month period ending January 2014 (the most recent numbers available).

Altogether, the 16 airlines that report to the BTS combined for a 77.34 percent on-time average, slipping from 81.85 percent in 2012. The U.S. Department of Transportation defines “on time” as any flight that arrives within 15 minutes of schedule.

From best to worst, in terms of on-time arrivals and departures, the survey noted:

  1. Hawaiian Airlines

  2. Alaska Airlines

  3. Delta Airlines

  4. Virgin American

  5. US Airways

  6. Endeavor (a Delta Connection)

  7. Sky West

  8. United

  9. Air Tran

  10. American

  11. Mesa

  12. Southwest

  13. JetBlue

  14. Frontier

  15. ExpressJet

  16. American Eagle

The latest on-time arrival statistics reveal a few changes, notably the lackluster records of Southwest, American Eagle, and AirTran compared to the year before. Hawaiian took top honors for punctuality—for the 10th straight year—with Alaska right behind for the fourth consecutive year.

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