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Ranking: The World’s Most Punctual Airlines

With the fourth best on-time performance of any global airline in 2023, Delta has won Cirium's Platinum Award for operational excellence for the third year running

January 4, 2024

Photo: Avianca, Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. Courtesy of Avianca.

Avianca, the Colombian flag carrier, was ranked as the most punctual airline globally in 2023, according to Cirium’s data. On the other hand, Delta Air Lines led North America and was awarded the Cirium Platinum Award for global operational excellence for the third consecutive year.

With the global travel industry recovering from the pandemic, airlines faced various challenges, including surging demand, increased passengers, intense competition, and growing operational costs. During the peak summer travel season, global passenger numbers surpassed pre-pandemic levels, with the recovery led by the U.S. and Western European markets. By Q3 2023, passenger revenues in the U.S. domestic market were 20 percent higher than in 2019.

Photo: Avianca, Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. Courtesy of Avianca.

Cirium’s On-Time Performance Review 2023 evaluated airlines and airports that handled these challenges most efficiently. By analyzing data from millions of flights worldwide, the carriers were ranked based on the proportion of their flights that arrived at their destinations on time.

With 85.73 percent of its more than 213,000 flights arriving on time in 2023, Bogota-based Avianca was the best-performing global airline last year. Cirium categorized global airlines as serving at least three regions and are within the top 10 percent of all passenger airlines in capacity and flight volume.

Avianca’s exceptional on-time performance in 2023 marked a significant improvement since its emergence from bankruptcy at the end of 2021. It spent last year reinventing itself with a rebranding, modernizing its fleet with the addition of seven Airbus A320-200neo aircraft, and filling the void left by the collapse of Colombian low-cost carrier Viva by adding more seats, expanding its network, and lowering its fares.

This significant expansion makes Avianca’s on-time performance all the more impressive, and its primary hub of Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport (BOG) also performed well, ranking as the 4th best performing global airport with 84.01 percent of its 292,486 flights departing on time.

The second best global airline was Brazilian low-cost carrier Azul, followed by Qatar Airways in third.

Photo: Delta, Boeing 757-200 wing getting de-iced in SLC. Courtesy of Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines was the best-performing North American airline and fourth best overall, with 84.72 percent of its more than 1.6 million flights arriving on time. American Airlines also made the top ten global airlines, with over 80.61% of its almost 2 million flights arriving on time.

The 10 Most Punctual Global Airlines:

Rank Airline On-Time Arrival Rate Total Number of Flights
1 Avianca 85.73% 213,039
2 Azul 85.51% 310,972
3 Qatar Airways 85.11% 183,090
4 Delta Air Lines 84.72% 1,635,486
5 Iberia 84.38% 170,750
6 LATAM Airlines 84% 508,721
7 All Nippon Airways 82.75% 302,279
8 Japan Airlines 82.58% 308,302
9 Saudia 81.29% 174,256
10 American Airlines 80.61% 1,998,844

Although Delta wasn’t the best global airline purely in terms of on-time performance, it picked up its third consecutive Platinum Award for operational excellence.

In addition to looking at on-time performance, Cirium gives this annual award to the carrier it perceives to have best navigated its operational challenges by considering the size of each airline’s network, the number of scheduled flights, and its ability to limit the impact of flight disruptions.

Photo: Delta, Boeing 717. Courtesy of Delta

Cirium pointed to the fact that Delta added 35,000 seats as part of its largest-ever Latin America and Caribbean winter schedule, as well as adding several transatlantic routes, such as from New York (JFK) to Naples (NAP) and Munich (MUN) and from Minneapolis (MSP) to Dublin (DUB), highlighted the airline’s excellent performance in 2023 as it managed to maintain its high operational standards.

“Such an outstanding performance, especially considering the vast operational diversity and the challenges of minimizing flight disruptions, sets Delta apart in the airline industry,” said Mike Malik, Chief Marketing Officer at Cirium. “Delta’s consistency in achieving this award for three years in a row is an extraordinary feat, underscoring the airline’s commitment to operational excellence.”

“The Cirium Platinum Award is not just about on-time performance; it also considers the airline’s network, volume of flights, and the ability to limit the impact of flight disruptions on passengers. Delta’s accomplishment in these areas, particularly during challenging times for the airline industry, speaks volumes about its operational efficiency and customer-focused approach.”

The 10 Most Punctual North American Airlines:

Rank Airline On-Time Arrival Rate Total Number of Flights
1 Delta Air Lines 84.72% 1,635,486
2 Alaska Airlines 82.25% 404,925
3 American Airlines 80.61% 1,998,844
4 United Airlines 80.04% 1,513,432
5 Southwest Airlines 76.26% 1,459,926
6 Spirit Airlines 71.16% 298,600
7 WestJet 69.29% 182,296
8 Frontier Airlines 68.68% 191,369
9 JetBlue 68.33% 350,731
10 Air Canada 63.17% 376,451

Other regional winners for on-time performance in 2023 were All Nippon Airways in the Asia Pacific region, Iberia Express in Europe, Copa Airlines in Latin America, and Oman Air in the Middle East & Africa. South African-based Safair was the best-performing low-cost carrier globally.

The 5 Most Punctual Asia-Pacific Airlines:

Rank Airline On-Time Arrival Rate Total Number of Flights
1 All Nippon Airways 82.75% 302,279
2 Japan Airlines 82.58% 308,302
3 Thai AirAsia 82.52% 113,871
4 IndiGo 82.12% 678,446
5 Air New Zealand 79.68% 175,876

The 5 Most Punctual European Airlines:

Rank Airline On-Time Arrival Rate Total Number of Flights
1 Iberia Express 84.58% 40,985
2 Iberia 84.38% 170,750
3 Austrian 82.99% 113,587
4 LOT – Polish Airlines 82.83% 96,112
5 Norwegian Air Shuttle 82.75% 82,791

The 5 Most Punctual Latin American Airlines:

Rank Airline On-Time Arrival Rate Total Number of Flights
1 Copa Airlines 89.46% 115,657
2 Avianca 85.73% 213,039
3 Azul 85.51% 310,972
4 LATAM Airlines 84% 508,721
5 Caribbean Airlines 81.73% 26,644

The 5 Most Punctual Airlines in the Middle East and Africa:

Rank Airline On-Time Arrival Rate Total Number of Flights
1 Oman Air 92.53% 45,908
2 Safair 92.36% 55,444
3 Royal Jordanian 87.51% 32,706
4 Qatar Airways 85.11% 183,090
5 Etihad Airways 82.9% 65,376

The 5 Most Punctual Low-Cost Carriers:

Rank Airline On-Time Arrival Rate Total Number of Flights
1 Safair 92.36% 55,444
2 Azul 85.51% 310,972
3 Hong Kong Express 85.23% 23,761
4 Jetstar Japan 84.6% 33,932
5 Iberia Express 84.58% 40,985

When it came to airport performance, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport was the global airport winner, with an on-time departure rate of 84.44 percent. Other U.S. airports to make the top 10 globally were Salt Lake City (SLC) in 5th place, Detroit (DTW) in 6th, Seattle-Tacoma (SEA) in 7th, and Philadelphia (PHL) in 8th.

Meanwhile, Japan’s Osaka International Airport (ITM) was ranked the world’s best-performing medium airport (serving 15-25 million passengers annually). At the same time, Ecuador’s Mariscal Sucre Airport (UIO) was the best-performing small airport.

The 5 Most Punctual Airports in the World:

Rank Airport On-Time Departure Rate Total Number of Flights
1 Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) 84.44% 289,817
2 Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (HYD) 84.42% 168,426
3 Kempegowda International Airport (BLR) 84.08% 237,461
4 El Dorado International Airport (BOG) 84.01% 292,486
5 Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) 83.99% 226,705

The 5 Most Punctual Midsize Airports in the World:

Rank Airport On-Time Departure Rate Total Number of Flights
1 Osaka International Airport (ITM) 90.71% 136,150
2 Tocumen International Airport (PTY) 90.51% 125,731
3 Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM) 89.1% 155,787
4 Brasilia International Airport (BSB) 86.62% 108,758
5 Portland International Airport (PDX) 86.03% 142,661

The 5 Most Punctual Small Airports in the World:

Rank Airport On-Time Departure Rate Total Number of Flights
1 Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) 90.29% 41,576
2 Chubu Centrair International Airport (NGO) 90.17% 73,159
3 Jose Joaquin de Olmedo Airport (GYE) 88.83% 36,077
4 Boise Air Terminal (BOI) 87.3% 50,635
5 Cape Town International Airport (SLC) 86.71% 80,267