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This is the Most Punctual Airport in America

SmarterTravel

If you’re leaving from Salt Lake City, you’re in luck: The airport is the most reliable in America when it comes to on-time performance. 

Official Airline Guide (OAG), an aviation-data tracking service, just released its 2014 on-time performance statistics for U.S. and international airports as well as domestic and international airlines.

Airports

How did U.S. airports fare? SLC is the highest-ranking, with an 88.2 percent on-time rating. According to OAG, this means that 88.2 percent of flights arriving to or departing from SLC were within 15 minutes of their scheduled times. Following close behind is Sea-Tac, with Detroit and Minneapolis/St. Paul tied for fourth.

These are the 10 best-performing airports in the U.S.

  1. Salt Lake City International Airport (88.2)
  2. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (86.2)
  3. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport  (84.5)
  4. Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (84.5)
  5. Miami International Airport (83.2)
  6. Charlotte Douglas International Airport (83.1)
  7. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (82.4)
  8. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (82)
  9. Los Angeles International Airport (81.1)
  10. Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (78.8)

OAG also rounded up the best-performing airports in the world, separated into categories small (less than 10 million flyers per year); medium (10—20 million flyers per year); and large (the heavy hitters with 20+ million flyers per year). By far the best-performing airline is the small-sized Bristol Airport (served by Aer Lingus, KLM, RyanAir, and a number of other airlines) with a 94.4 percent on-time rating.

No U.S. airports make the worldwide top performers list. Most notably, smaller airports far outranked the big guys when it came to on-time performance. This makes sense—with fewer flights to coordinate and fewer passengers to funnel to gates, smaller airports can be wonderfully efficient. (We advocate using them whenever possible for this reason.)

These are the best-performing airports worldwide:

  1. Bristol Airport (94.4)
  2. Osaka (93.2)
  3. Brussels South Charleroie (93.1)
  4. Tronheim (92)
  5. Bergen (91.6)
  6. Stavanger (90.8)
  7. Adelaide (90.5)
  8. Milan Linate (90.1)
  9. Hannover (90)
  10. London Luton (89.3)

Airlines

Aside from its airport punctuality rankings, OAG rounds up the best airlines in terms of on-time performance. Headed to or from the Aloha State? Hawaiian Airlines is the most likely to get you to your final destination on time, with a pretty snazzy 92.3 percent on-time rating. This performance places it first in the States and second in the world overall (USA! USA!)

In general, North American airlines didn’t do as well as their European and Asian counterparts. Industry darling JetBlue fell far behind the legacy airlines of Delta and US, with a little more than three-quarters of its flights arriving or departing on schedule.

Here are the best performing major airlines in the Americas:

  1. Hawaiian Airlines (92.3)
  2. Alaska Airlines (83.6)
  3. Delta Air Lines (83.6)
  4. Virgin America (82.8)
  5. Lan Airlines (82.3)
  6. Airtran (may it RIP) (81.8)
  7. US Airways (80.8)
  8. Air Canada (80.3)
  9. Aeromexico (79.4)
  10. JetBlue Airways (77)

And the best performing in the world:

  1. airBaltic (94.9)
  2. Hawaiian Airlines (92.3)
  3. Austrian Airlines (90)
  4. Iberia (89)
  5. KLM (89.4)
  6. Saudi Arabian Airlines (89.4)
  7. SAS (89.1)
  8. Japan Airlines (88.8)
  9. Finnair (88.6)
  10. Alaska Airlines (88.5) 

A Deeper Dive

So what makes an airline more punctual than others? The OAG report notes that smaller airlines benefit from using smaller airports with consistent flight schedules, saying that, “There is less scope for disruption” (e.g., the proverbial “s” is less likely to hit the fan when the numbers are more manageable all-around).

OAG’s assertion is right on the money: The larger hubs offer the convenience of choice but also the side effects of congestion and delays. Fares to and from the big airports tend to be lower than those for regional hubs (at least in the U.S.), but the trade-offs are more likely delays or cancellations—not to mention the agony of long lines and crowded terminals.

Something that OAG doesn’t note but anecdata tells me so is that an airline’s boarding procedures make all the difference when it comes to punctuality. Notice that Southwest, with its free-for-all boarding, is conspicuously missing. The more efficient an airline’s staff and its passengers are when boarding and stowing luggage, the more likely your flight is to be on-time. At least I think so.

You can read the full OAG report online.

Readers, is your airport or preferred airline on the list?

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(Photo: Salt Lake City Department of Airports, Photographer Michael Schoenfeld)

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