Sometimes airline flights are delayed due to bad weather. Other times, however, they are delayed because, well, no one seems to know why. Having said that, you would probably want to avoid airlines with most delays.
Fortunately, if you’d like to do everything you can to avoid the prospect of a flight delay or cancellation, there’s some good news. New research shows that your choice of airline directly factors into whether or not you experience delayed or canceled flights. In other words, some airlines are more prone to delaying or canceling scheduled flights than others. Having said that, even the best US airlines have a certain percentage of delayed or canceled flights.
The staff at the Family Vacation Guide began researching flight information to determine which airlines are most likely to experience flight cancellations or delays so you may be able to plan a trip accordingly – we’re here to help analyze and summarize it for you.
The research aimed to analyze the data compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). According to the BTS report, which was compiled from data recorded between July 2019 and July 2021, a flight is considered delayed when it arrives 15 or more minutes later than its scheduled flight time.
Based on its findings, here’s the detailed list of the airlines with flights most likely to be delayed as well as canceled scheduled flights. As the authors of the report note, “It perhaps comes as no surprise that the three airlines with the highest percentage of late arrivals are all low-cost carriers.”
Let’s get right to our list.
10 U.S. Airlines With The Most Flight Delays And Cancellations
1. Allegiant Air
Allegiant Air, which is based in Las Vegas, explains that it offers flights from small and medium cities to vacation destinations at “industry-low average fares.” This budget airline, which is the official airline of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders and is the naming rights partner for Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium, offers nonstop scheduled flights to locations throughout the U.S., as well as service to Canada and Mexico.
More than a quarter of those flights were delayed or canceled. In fact, 27.31 percent of the airline’s flights were delayed, while just 72.69 percent of its flights were on time. There you have it. Of all the US airlines, Allegiant has the most delays and cancellations.
2. JetBlue Airways
Based in New York City, JetBlue Airways was the seventh-largest U.S. airline by number of passengers in 2020, carrying 14.31 million passengers. The airline serves more than 100 destinations across the U.S., Caribbean, and Latin America, principally flying out of hubs in New York City, Boston, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, Los Angeles, Orlando, and San Juan.
The research says that 23.20 percent of the JetBlue Airway scheduled flights were delayed or canceled while its on time flights were 76.9 percent.
3. Frontier Airlines
Headquartered in Denver, Frontier Airlines explains that it is committed to “Low Fares Done Right” and that the company’s employees are “tireless in our efforts to save you money on your flights.” The airline serves approximately 120 destinations in the U.S., Canada, Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America.
More than 21 percent of the airline’s flights were delayed or canceled. Conversely, just under 79 percent (78.76) of Frontier’s flights were on time.
4. Envoy Air
Originally founded as American Eagle Airlines, Envoy Air is a wholly owned subsidiary of American Airlines Group. Headquartered in Irving, Texas, the airline offers regional flight service for American through American’s hubs such as Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles. It offers approximately 1,000 daily flights to more than 150 destinations.
The research findings show that nearly one-fifth (19.52 percent) of Envoy’s flights were delayed or canceled while 80.48 percent of the flights were on time.
5. United Airlines
Based in Chicago, United Airlines was the fourth-largest U.S. airline by number of passengers last year, carrying 37.99 million travelers. The airline offers 3,118 flights each day to 252 U.S. cities as well as 80 international airport locations. Much of that traffic departs its hubs in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.
Of those flights, 81.40 percent were on-time flights and 18.6 percent of the flights were delayed, based on the research.
6. American Airlines
Founded in 1930 and headquartered just outside Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, American was the second-largest U.S. airline based on number of passengers in 2020. Indeed, last year, 65.85 million people traveled on the airline. The airline, with its regional partner American Eagle, offers 6,700 flights each day to 350 destinations in 50 countries.
The research points out that 18.55 percent of those flights were delayed while 81.45 percent were on time.
7. Spirit Airlines
Spirit Airlines explains that it offers flights to more than 60 destinations at “ultra low fares.” as one of the more popular budget airlines options. Those flights include locations in the U.S. as well as the Caribbean and Latin America. Based in Miramar, Florida, in the Miami metro area, Spirit Airlines was the sixth-largest U.S. airline by number of passengers last year, carrying 18.44 million passengers.
Just over 82 percent of its flights were on time last year, while 17.96 percent of its flights were delayed, according to the research data.
8. Southwest Airlines
Dallas-based Southwest Airlines was the largest U.S. airline by number of passengers last year — carrying 69.65 million passengers. The airline notes that in 2019, it offered more than 4,000 weekday departures to 101 U.S. destinations as well as destinations in 10 other countries.
Of those flights, slightly more than 83 percent were on time. When it comes to delayed flights, just under 17 percent of its flights were delayed, which makes Southwest Airlines fairly reliable. One factor could be that Southwest Airlines has limited flights to international airport locations.
9. Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines, which is based in Seattle, and its regional partners serve more than 120 destinations across the U.S., as well as Canada, Mexico, and Costa Rica. The airline announced earlier this week that it will begin offering daily direct flights from Seattle-Tacoma to Miami next year. That announcement means the airline will serve 100 destinations with nonstop flights.
The results of the research show that slightly more than 83 percent of the airline’s flights were on time while just under 17 percent of its flights were delayed.
10. SkyWest Airlines
SkyWest Airlines was the fifth-largest U.S. airline by number of passengers in 2020, carrying 20.36 million passengers. The airline points out that in 2019, however, it carried more than 43 million passengers through its partnerships with United, Delta Air Lines, American, and Alaska.
SkyWest Airlines, based in St. George, Utah, offers services to 236 cities in the U.S., along with destinations in Canada and Mexico.
Slightly more than 84 percent of the airline’s flights were on time last year, the research revealed. The flip side of the coin is that 15.99 percent of its flights were delayed – not bad at all.
5 Common Reasons Why Flights Are Delayed or Canceled
Whether you are a frequent or occasional flier, be prepared for flight delays or cancellations. While most flights run pretty smoothly, various factors can result in interruptions in your travel schedule.
Here are the five common reasons why flights may be delayed or canceled:
- Adverse Weather Conditions
Bad weather conditions, such as thunderstorms, heavy snow, dense fog, or strong winds, can disrupt flight schedules in a major way. In fact, most delays by far are bad weather delays.
Safety is the top priority for airlines, and in case of severe weather, they will delay or cancel flights. This is to protect the passengers and the crew from the potential safety risk. Bear in mind that different airlines may have different guidelines on what makes bad weather severe enough to delay a flight.
- Technical Issues
All US airlines undergo meticulous maintenance routines but mechanical problems, although rare, can still arise. If an issue is detected before or during a flight, airlines must address it promptly to ensure the safety of all passengers and crew.
This diligence usually leads to delays or sometimes even cancellations. While it can be frustrating, do have in mind that your safety is on the line here, and the airlines must take necessary precautions regardless of the possible delays or cancellations.
- Air Traffic Control
Even the top domestic and international airports can become jammed, especially during busy travel seasons. Air traffic control plays a major role in managing the flights, but excessive air traffic can cause delays and cancellations.
Air traffic controllers aim to minimize such disruptions, but there are times when flight schedules need to be adjusted based on the current air traffic situation.
- Connecting Flights
If you have connecting flights, a delay on your first flight often has a ripple effect on the rest of your travel. Most airlines do their best to help passengers with connecting flights, but sometimes delays are unavoidable. It’s up to you to pick the best times to fly wisely.
I suggest that you plan a buffer of time between connecting flights, just in case of possible delays and so that you can catch a different flight and still make it to your destination in time.
- Security Concerns
Safety and security are of utmost importance when it comes to air travel. If there is a security concern at the airport or on a plane, flights get delayed, canceled, or rerouted.
Way back in July 2005, I was in London at the time of the bombings. All hell broke loose… I had a flight back home from Luton, a small international airport in London. The security was tense, to say the least, and, as I anticipated, my flight was delayed for 5 hours.
The airport’s and airline’s primary focus was to ensure that we travel safely and securely so I didn’t mind the delay, considering the circumstances. I could only imagine what it was like at Heathrow at the same time.
Obviously, the airport and airline staff do their best to ensure the safety of all passengers in case of a safety or security issues. While these situations are rare, they require quick and thorough responses. And what is your best response? Patience, fellow travelers, patience.
Which US Airline Has the Least Delays?
Alaska Airlines had the least delays with 79.4% on time flights followed by Delta Air Lines with 77.8% on time flights. These stats were pulled in June 2023 and we all know that June is the peak of holiday season so these stats are solid indicators when choosing an airline for your vacation.
How Often Is American Airlines Delayed?
23% of American Airlines flights are delayed according to the October 2023 stats. The most common reasons for the delays are severe weather, mechanical issues and staffing issues ranging from air traffic control to pilots and flight attendants.
What Time of Day Is Best to Avoid Flight Delays?
The best time of day to fly if you want to avoid delays is very early in the morning. Early morning flights are much less likely to get delayed or canceled than those taking place later in the day for a simple reason: the more flights there are before your flight, the higher the chances are that some of those flights will cause delays which will in turn affect your flight.
While you’re thinking of it, be sure to read the rest of our airports and flying coverage, including: