From wellness amenities to butterfly gardens, the airports of the 21st century can certainly be pleasant places to while away the pre-departure hours. But even so, most travellers would prefer to get where they’re going on time and without delays. 

Long exposure of blurred people walking at a New York City airport.
Two data reports offer insight into airport and airline performance in 2019 © Classen Rafael/EyeEm/Getty Images

To that end, two data analysts recently released punctuality reports on the world’s airlines and airports, and while their results and methodology differ a bit, both offer useful information for trip-planning purposes. 

For its On-Time Performance Review, released on 2 January, travel data and analytics firm Cirium looked at more than 100,000 flights a day to determine on-time performance for 2019  across three categories: global airlines, major airlines by region, and low-cost carriers. Cirium considers a flight to be on time if the plane pulls into the gate within 15 minutes of the scheduled arrival time, and airports’ performance is determined by the timeliness of departing flights. 

Young man seen from behind, standing near a window at the airport and watching plane before departure, wearing a backpack and pulling a suitcase
Cirium examined 100,000-plus flights a day to determine on-time performance for 2019 © YakobchukOlena/Getty Images

According to that criteria, Russian carrier Aeroflot took top honours as the world’s most on-time mainline airline, with 86.7% of its flights operating on time last year, and Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International was declared the world’s most punctual airport, with 95% of flights leaving on time. 

Japan’s All Nippon Airways was second with 86.3%, and Delta Air Lines – last year’s winner – finished third with 85.7%, though it did come out on top among North American carriers. Regionally, Copa Airlines was Latin America’s most punctual and Qatar Airways won out in the Middle East and Africa; Aeroflot outperformed the rest of Europe’s carriers, and ANA topped the Asia Pacific market, with Japan’s StarFlyer declared the most on-time low-cost carrier.  

Two young female passengers at the airport, sleeping on an airport terminal bench due to flight delay.
OAG looked at 57.5 million flight records to help travellers avoid sleeping in the terminal © izusek/Getty Images

On the other hand, air-travel data firm OAG examined 57.5 million flight records from 2019 for its Punctuality League 2020, released on 3 January, with on-time performance qualified here as a flight that arrives within 15 minutes of its scheduled time. Airports’ performance was calculated based on departure and arrival data, and only airports with at least 2.5 million departing seats were considered. Carriers were compared across five categories: global mega airlines, mainline airlines (those that ranked among the top 250 operators globally in terms of capacity and operated more than 30,000 scheduled flights last year), low-cost carriers, and regional airlines.

On those terms, Indonesia’s Garuda Airlines topped all categories with an average on-time performance of 95% and a whopping 19 of 20 flights operating on schedule. Copa Airlines came in second overall with 92%, and Japan’s Skymark Airlines was third with 90.1% – and the world’s top-ranking low-cost carrier as well. Moscow’s Sheremetyevo was named the world’s most punctual here as well, out of all airports with more than 30 million seats. 

Regionally, Hawaiian Airlines came first in North America, Copa was tops in South America, Azerbaijan Airlines was Europe’s best performer, Garuda finished first in Asia Pacific, and Safair was the Middle East and Africa’s most punctual.

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