Best and Worst U.S. Airlines: Delayed Flights, Cancelled Flights, Lost Luggage

Best and Worst U.S. Airlines: Late Flights, Cancelled Flights, Lost Luggage 2021


Which are the Best and Worst U.S. Airlines for On-Time Flight Arrivals, Cancelled Flights, and Lost Luggage in 2021? Americans have started traveling more after the vaccination roll-out and loosening of COVID-19 restrictions, to the point where many airlines are flying fuller flights and struggling to ensure proper staffing. Here are the figures both for Q1 2021 and for May 2021, the most recent month for which Department of Transportation data is available.

For Q1 2021, there was a gap of over 14 percentage points between Hawaiian Airlines, with the highest percentage of on-time flights at 92.5%, and JetBlue, with just 78.4% of on-time flights. Now, Hawaiian Airlines obviously isn't as exposed to adverse weather events as other carriers with more flights in destinations with wintery weather, so May 2021 is perhaps a fairer barometer, although JetBlue still ranked below legacy carriers at 81.5%, compared to AA at 84%, United at 87.5% and Delta at 90.3%. The upshot: while Delta has a terrible frequent flyer program, it's the best of the major U.S. airlines when it comes to on-time flights so far in 2021.

AirlineRank% On-Time Flights, Q1 2021% On-Time Flights, May 2021
Hawaiian Airlines192.593.0
Endeavor Air292.292.6
Delta Air Lines390.490.3
Republic Airways488.191.4
United Airlines587.187.5
American Airlines686.884.0
PSA Airlines786.788.2
Southwest Airlines885.881.3
Skywest Airlines985.388.1
Horizon Air1085.589.8
Frontier Airlines1185.384.9
Spirit Airlines1285.384.4
Alaska Airlines1384.689.6
Mesa Airlines1481.778.5
Envoy Air1579.982.4
Allegiant Air1679.778.4
JetBlue Airways1778.481.5


When it comes to cancelled flights, winter weather also plays a significant role, driving up cancellations for Q1 2021 compared to May 2021. Delta Airlines still fares best so far in 2021, with just 0.8% of scheduled flights cancelled in Q1 2021 and so few cancelled in May 2021 that it rounded to 0%, similar to Hawaiian. After Delta, of the carriers our clients fly, JetBlue was best, with 1.8% of flights cancelled in Q1 2021 and 0.2% in May 2021. United Airlines and Alaska Airlines were similar, cancelling 2.6% and 2.7% respectively of their flights in Q1 2021, but similar to JetBlue, just 0.2% of their flights in May. American Airlines cancelled fewer flights than United and Alaska in Q1 2021, 2.2%–but was worse in May 2021, cancelling 1% of flights.

AirlineRank% Flights Cancelled, Q1 2021% Flights Cancelled, May 2021
Hawaiian Airlines10.20.0
Delta Air Lines20.80.0
Endeavor Air30.90.1
Spirit Airlines41.40.1
JetBlue Airways51.80.2
PSA Airlines61.90.5
Frontier Airlines71.90.1
Republic Airways82.10.2
American Airlines92.21.0
United Airlines102.60.2
Skywest Airlines112.70.4
Alaska Airlines122.70.2
Allegiant Air133.20.3
Southwest Airlines143.20.4
Horizon Air153.30.8
Envoy Air165.32.2
Mesa Airlines175.31.7


In terms of lost luggage, Allegiant and Hawaiian Airlines performed best, with fewer than 2 mishandled bag reports per 1000 passengers for both Q1 2021 and May 2021. Next of the major major carriers was Delta. JetBlue's performance worsened from Q1 2021 to May 2021, going from 3.9 to 4.5, while United improved over the same period, going from 4.4 to 3.0. American Airlines was by far the worst of the major airlines at 6.8 and 6.4 for Q1 2021 and May 2021, respectively.

AirlineRankMishandled Bag Reports per 1000 Passengers Q1 2021Mishandled Bag Reports per 1000 Passengers May 2021
Allegiant Air11.21.3
Hawaiian Airlines21.91.9
Frontier Airlines32.32.5
Endeavor Air42.43.2
Southwest Airlines52.72.8
Delta Air Lines62.83.3
Spirit Airlines73.03.7
JetBlue Airways83.94.5
Horizon Air94.03.5
Alaska Airlines104.34.0
United Airlines114.43.0
Skywest Airlines124.43.3
PSA Airlines134.73.9
Republic Airways144.84.3
Mesa Airlines155.74.9
American Airlines166.86.4
Envoy Air178.97.9


While many routes have been cut or frequencies reduced such that travelers may not have a choice of airlines for the route they want to fly, it can be helpful to take airlines' recent track records for delayed and cancelled flights into account when choosing flights.

If you've flown a U.S. airline recently, what was your experience?

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Katherine W
Katherine W
1 year ago

After a 5 hour delay in Chicago yesterday, it hit home that there is something totally wrong with our airlines. There are no FAA regulations enforced, no consequences by FAA for whatever reasons the airlines cancel flights (when they don’t have enough passengers). FAA needs to stand up to the bat and enforce what they are all about – Federal Aviation Administration. There needs to be something done by FAA to control this abuse to travel passengers. There are enough planes grounded that the airlines could distribute them around the country, to replace delayed flights. As far as crew, what’s… Read more »