Planning to fly somewhere for your spring break or summer vacation? If arriving at your destination in a timely manner is important, you may want to choose Alaska over American, Hawaiian over Allegiant and Japan Airlines (JAL) over Air Canada.
According to the global trackers at FlightStats, Alaska, Hawaiian and JAL were among the top airlines in the world in terms of getting their passengers where they wanted to go within 15 minutes of their scheduled arrival time last year.
American, Allegiant and Air Canada, not so much.
Released on Tuesday, the company’s On-time Performance Service Awards analyzes data from airlines, major reservation systems and civil aviation authorities and ranks carriers in 13 categories, including major international airlines, major airlines by continent, regional airlines by continent and airline alliance.
Among the winners and losers:
Top 5 major North American airlines
- Alaska: 87.26 percent
- AirTran: 87.24 percent
- US Airways: 85.98 percent
- Delta: 85.95 percent
- JetBlue: 79.36 percent
Other major U.S. carriers included Southwest (77.53 percent), Frontier (77.19 percent), United (76.94 percent) and American (76.93 percent), with Air Canada bringing up the rear with an on-time performance rate of just 60.89 percent.
Top 5 North American regional airlines
- Hawaiian: 92.29 percent
- Horizon: 91.60 percent
- Delta Connect: 88.54 percent
- Mesa: 86.57 percent
- Executive: 85.21 percent
Most likely to get delayed at the gate or stuck on the tarmac? Allegiant, at 69.13 percent.
While passengers on Allegiant (and other lesser-known carriers) had every right to be annoyed by poor performance, it’s worth noting that the U.S. industry, overall, has been delaying fewer passengers recently.
According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), the 15 largest U.S. carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 81.85 percent last year, up from 79.60 percent in 2011 and the third-best annual rate in the 18 years DOT has been collecting the data.
Still, there’s room for improvement, especially when compared to major international airlines, where on-time honors went to JAL (90.35 percent), All Nippon Airways (88.48 percent), SAS (87.91 percent) and KLM (87.85 percent). Last year marked the third time that JAL has taken the top spot.
“It takes a lot of teamwork among all employees to pull together consistent on-time performance,” said Sarena Regazzoni, director of corporate communications at FlightStats, “and if an organization has a high rate, it’s an indicator that passengers will have a positive outcome on their day of travel.”
Whether that’s enough to get travelers to pick one airline over another is less clear. Even when there’s a choice between carriers, on-time performance is less important than other factors, including price, schedule and inflight services, says Stuart Greif, vice president, global travel, at J.D. Power and Associates.
“On-time performance is table stakes,” he told NBC News. “Customers’ expectations are that the plane should arrive on time. You don’t get credit for what you’re supposed to do.”
Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.