Lonely Planet Writer

Surprise! On-time flight arrivals in the USA are up

Air travel is worse than ever, or is it? That seems to be the consensus when you talk to fellow travelers, scan Twitter, or read online forums. Turns out, however, that when it comes to on-time arrival numbers, major U.S. airlines are having one of their best periods ever.

An American Airlines plane at Dallas airport.
An American Airlines plane at Dallas airport. Image by Kolin Toney / CC BY-SA 2.0

“Carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 87% in October 2015, up from both the 80% on-time rate in October 2014 and the 86.5% mark in September 2015,” according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report, released on 14 Dec.

And according to Mashable’s Jessica Plautz, the October figure is the third best month in the 21 years for which records exist.

If arrivals are so consistently on time, why are travelers complaining so much (well, beyond the other reasons airlines give them, like the rise in fees)?

Well, possibly because airlines are padding their stats. Mashable referenced a recent report from OAG, an air travel intelligence company, which found that “the allotted times scheduled for some flights have been growing since 1996. For example, a flight that used to be scheduled for two hours may now be scheduled for two hours and 20 minutes.”