Delays are an inevitable part of air travel. If you fly enough, sooner or later you’ll get caught by bad weather or some other unforeseen circumstance.
Those who take a zen approach to air travel may be able to roll with the proverbial punches and enjoy their extra time at the airport, but it’s hard for most of us to keep our blood pressure in check when a delay stretches from minutes to hours.
It’s not possible to avoid all delays, but you can put the odds in your favor. A new study explored this problem and found the best ways to avoid major delays.
Putting the odds in your favor
Variables like choosing certain airlines, flying from certain airports and taking off at certain times of the day affect your odds of being delayed or having your flight canceled.
On-time performance is often tied to other customer-friendly traits. Airlines that are better at staying on schedule often have superior scores in overall customer satisfaction surveys, and they are less likely to have unpopular policies like charging for checked baggage or making passengers buy refreshments.
The news site FiveThirtyEight used data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics to find out which flights get passengers to their destination the fastest and which airports are the least prone to major delays.
Some airlines are faster than others (but not by much)
Overall, the “fastest” carrier compared to the other major brands was Virgin. Richard Branson’s airline was seven minutes faster than average on all its routes combined. Alaska Airlines and US Airways were six minutes on the good side of the mean. Delta, Hawaiian, Frontier and JetBlue also scored well. The tardiest carriers were American (three minutes slower than average) and United (six minutes on the wrong side of zero).
Southwest Airlines, which scored right at the average for time added to its routes, was among the most-delayed airlines in terms of overall number of flights that left after the scheduled time. About one of every four Southwest flights were delayed over the past 12 months. However, almost all of those delays were in the 15-minute range. About 3.6 percent of the airline’s flights were delayed for a significant amount of time (more than two hours) or canceled. In contrast, 5.9 percent of United’s and 6.7 percent of American’s flights fell into the same “serious delay” category.
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