Lonely Planet Writer

Travelling long-haul? These airlines experience the least disruption

Flight delays can burst any happy holiday mood, especially if you're flying long-haul and every minute can sometimes like an hour. A new study analysed the actual on-time performance of some of the world's 75 most "punctual" long-haul airlines and it found that flight disruptions are quite common, with some airlines performing worse than others.

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One in three long-haul flights suffer from disruptions, according to a new study. Image by Tooga/Getty Images

Tighter border checks, rolling strikes, severe weather and an increase in passengers numbers are just some of the factors that have led to disruption in more than 50% of long-haul flights in recent years. A study from flight compensation company AirHelp, which looked at data from 2017, 2018 and January 2019, revealed that more than 50% of passengers on long-haul flights (five hours or more) are likely to experience a flight disruption since nearly three out of every five flights were delayed for at least 15 minutes or were cancelled.

The study found that Hong Kong Airlines is the top long-haul performer with a punctuality rating of 83.6%. The top long-haul runners up were Kenya Airlines with on-time performance of 71.9%, and Singapore Airlines, with 67% of flights arriving on time. Delta Airlines is the highest-ranking US carrier, with a punctuality rate of 67 %, followed by Alaska Airlines (65.95%), Spirit Airlines (64.28%) and United Airlines (64.27%).

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Some airlines performed better than others. Image by Mongkol Chuewong/Getty Images

Airlines based in Europe struggle particularly with their long-hauls; no carrier was placed within the top 10 performers. Iberia (Spain) is ranked 11 with an on-time performance rating of only 64% for long-haul flights.

The good news for those on a long-haul flight with an EU carrier, or flying out of the EU, is they may be entitled to up to €600 ($678) per person in compensation for disruptions causing a delay of four hours or more to the final destination. “For the past few years we’ve seen a lot of flight disruptions on record, especially for long-haul flights” said Henrik Zillmer, air passenger rights expert and CEO of AirHelp. “Globally, air passengers have suffered an unprecedented level of flight disruptions for long-hauls."

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Individuals may be entitled to compensation for delays. Image: PhotoAlto/Thierry Foulon

More than 2.4 million departing flights were delayed or cancelled, which is more than half of the 4.4 million flights that were analysed. Although it’s not always possible to avoid travel disruptions, passengers should always check if they are entitled to financial compensation. Air passengers experiencing delayed or cancelled flights can check their eligibility for compensation at the airport or make a claim through the free AirHelp mobile app, available for iOS and Android.