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Airlines Race for Top Place in On-Time Performance Rankings

Japan Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Red Wings and Avianca lead the pack as air travel emerges from pandemic

June 13, 2021

Airlines and airports are getting back on track and no airline worth its wings wants to be left at the gate. Thus, airline companies are, once again, seeking to earn kudos for punctuality of their services as the volume of flights increases worldwide. To this end, Cirium, the aviation analytics company, restarted its closely followed monthly On-Time Performance Reports.

In May 2021, Japan Airlines (JAL), Hawaiian Airlines, Red Wings and Avianca topped the ranks for on-time arrivals in their respective regions. Meanwhile, Haneda Airport (HND) took the top spot as the most on-time global airport.

Cirium has been producing these The On-Time Performance Reports for more than a decade — possibly the longest-standing analysis of its type in the aviation industry, providing insights on airline and airport punctuality, recognizing those that outperformed their peers, in global, regional, and other categories. The report was suspended in early 2020, as flights were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

JAL Tops in APAC

In Asia-Pacific, the top five mainline airlines for on-time arrivals in May include JAL (95.19 percent), ANA (94.60 percent), Air New Zealand (89.59 percent), Garuda Indonesia (87.98 percent) and Korean Air (85.48 percent). Air New Zealand operated the most flights over the month (12,570) out of the top 10 on-time airlines.

JAL has risen in the ranks from 10th to 1st place when comparing to Cirium’s last monthly report in February 2020. ANA has moved up from 5th and Air New Zealand has moved up from 9th. Some airlines that featured in the top 10 for punctuality in 2020 no longer feature, including Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, AirAsia, Cebu Pacific Air and Thai Airways International.

Hawaiian Leads, Air Canada Catches Up

Hawaiian Airlines beat other North American carriers, maintaining top spot as the US most on-time airline on a monthly basis (on-time arrival of 93.22 percent). Air Canada, which did not make the top 10 in February 2020, now ranks as number two, displacing Southwest Airlines, which was 2nd in 2020. Southwest has slipped down the ranking to 9th place; however, the Dallas-based carrier operated the most flights out of the top 10 carriers—a total of 89,297 flights. Delta Air Lines, Alaska Airlines and United Airlines take 3rd, 4th, and 5th spots.

Red Wings Top in Europe

The top 10 ranking for Europe unsurprisingly has seen many shifts with Red Wings taking top place in May (96.18 percent on-time). Since February 2020, Vueling Airlines has risen from 7th place to 2nd (96.07 percent) and Iberia has moved up from 6th to 3rd (95.87 percent). Aeroflot slipped to 5th place, however, the Russian carrier operated the most flights in the top 10 with a total of 13,316 flights. Newcomers to the top 10 versus 2020 include KLM (4th), SunExpress (7th), and SAS (10th). Airlines no longer in the top 10 include LOT Polish Airlines, Air France, and Norwegian Air Shuttle.

Avianca Leads Latin America

Avianca has soared, moving from 9th place in 2020 to be the most on-time airline in Latin America (93.69 percent) for May. Azul (93.53 percent) and Gol (93.52 percent) have both moved up the top 10 ranking to 2nd and 3rd place, respectively.

Haneda Tops in Airport Rankings

In the top 20 global airport ranking, Haneda Airport (HND) achieved the top spot with an on-time departure of 96.86 percent. Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO), Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP), Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW), and Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) all follow in the top five.

More than half a million passenger flights were handled by the top 20 global airports in May. This is only 4 percent down versus February 2020. The on-time performance of the airports has improved by 3 points.

“As flights have returned, it is a level playing field to analyze the on-time performance of the airlines and airports again—a positive sign for the industry. While the factors that cause delays—congested airspace, taxiways or connecting passengers—simply did not exist in 2020, they are likely to return slowly in 2021 and into 2022,” said Jeremy Bowen, CEO at Cirium.