Best and Worst U.S. Airlines: Late Flights, Cancellations, Lost Luggage

American Eagle-the Worst U.S. Airline?

 

It’s summer travel time, and if you’re flying soon, you may well be wondering if your flight will be one of the unlucky ones that sits on the tarmac waiting to take off, somehow arrives without your luggage on it, returns to the gate due to unruly passengers, or is cancelled altogether. While so far we haven’t seen statistics on the airlines most afflicted by out of control passengers, there is plenty of data on U.S. Airlines from the U.S. Department of Transportation on on-time arrivals, cancellations and lost luggage.

As you can see, whether you look at the 12 months ended May 2011 or Q1 2011, the airlines with the best on-time arrival records were Hawaiian, Alaska, United, Mesa, AirTran and US Airways. Then there’s a number of airlines with middling on-time arrivals, such as Frontier, Continental, American, Skywest, Southwest  and Delta. And the airlines with the worst records for on-time arrivals? Atlantic Southeast, ExpressJet, American Eagle and JetBlue, all of them over 15 percentage points lower than the best airline for ontime arrivals, Hawaiian.

Airline

Rank

% On-Time Flights, Q1 2011

% On-Time Flights, 4/10 – 5/11

Hawaiian

1

90.4

92.8

Alaska

2

83.4

86.7

United

3

82.7

84.1

Mesa

4

82.6

83.5

AirTran

5

81

83.5

US Airways

6

80.7

81.7

Frontier

7

76.1

79.5

Continental

8

76.6

79.2

American

9

77.4

78.4

Skywest

10

75

77.9

Southwest

11

76.3

77.5

Delta

12

77.1

77.1

Atlantic Southeast

13

73.4

76.4

ExpressJet

14

73.2

75.8

American Eagle

15

73.1

75.0

JetBlue

16

67.4

72.7

 

Moving to cancellations, Frontier was least likely to cancel a flight, with just 0.1% of its March-May 2011 flights cancelled. Hawaiian, AirTran and Alaska were again in the Top 5, and JetBlue, which had the worst on-time arrival records of all airlines redeemed itself somewhat by being #6 in least likely to outright cancel flights. The worst airlines in terms of cancellations? American Eagle (although keep in mind skewed somewhat by a huge number of Chicago weather-induced cancellations in May); Express Jet, American, Atlantic Southeast, Mesa and Skywest. 

 

Airline

Rank

% Flights Cancelled, March-May 2011

Frontier

1

.1

Continental

2

.3

Hawaiian

3

.4

AirTran

4

.5

Alaska

5

.6

JetBlue

6

.6

Delta

7

.8

US Airways

8

.9

United

9

1.0

Southwest

10

1.1

Skywest

11

2.2

Mesa

12

2.3

Atlantic Southeast

13

2.8

American

14

3.3

ExpressJet

15

3.4

American Eagle

16

4.5

Airline Flight Cancellations

 

Finally, which airlines are the best and worst for lost luggage?  AirTran and Hawaiian are still among the Top 5, together with Frontier, JetBlue and US Airways, but Alaska slips to 8th place, joining Delta, United, Continental and Southwest in the middle. You may want to avoid checking luggage with Skywest, American, ExpressJet, Mesa, Atlantic Southeast, and particularly American Eagle, which managed to garner the dubious distinction of the airline with the most lost luggage in both May 2010 and May 2011.

Airline

Rank

Mishandled Bag Reports per 1000 Passengers May 2010

Mishandled Bag Reports per 1000 Passengers May 2011

AirTran

1

1.52

1.67

Frontier

2

2.59

2.03

JetBlue

3

2.15

2.07

Hawaiian

4

1.82

2.49

US Airways

5

2.27

2.83

Delta

6

3.50

2.84

United

7

3.05

2.90

Alaska

8

3.07

2.94

Continental

9

2.27

3.37

Southwest

10

3.09

3.85

Skywest

11

4.43

4.02

American

12

3.87

4.27

ExpressJet

13

4.89

4.51

Mesa

14

2.57

5.11

Atlantic Southeast

15

3.98

5.47

American Eagle

16

6.91

8.67

 

So the upshot of all this? You may well not have a choice in airlines, depending on where you’re flying to, or the ticket price or available award seats may well be the controlling factors. If you do have a choice, however, and if late arrivals, cancellations or lost luggage (or all three) are big pet peeves, consider one of the airlines that are among the best in these areas. Of the major legacy carriers, United and US Airways are the best across the three categories, although Hawaiian, Alaska and Airtran, which have more limited route networks, are even better. In fact, you may even be treated to impromptu hula if you fly Hawaiian:

 

 

And American Eagle? Just. Say. No. 

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