Spirit Airlines Wins Top Airline For On Time Flights In The US

Spirit Airlines has pulled one of the biggest turnarounds this year in the Airline industry!

They have gone from the tardiest and late airline two years to the most on time last month!

Spirit Airlines Wins Top Airline For On Time Flights In The US
An Airbus A319 jetliner, belonging to Spirit Airlines, lands at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 5, 2015.

Who is Spirit Airlines?

For those non-US readers, Spirit is one of the many ultra-low-cost airlines operating in the US. They have a fleet of 124 aircraft (All Airbus A319, A320 or A321), and another 50 A320neo aircraft on order. They serve a very specific niche, flying with USA and routes to Central and South America. They are focused, and based, out of Florida.

Spirit Airlines Wins Top Airline For On Time Flights In The US
Spirit Airlines route map

What are the results?

The way it works for airlines is that the FAA records just how many times they are late for each flight over a month. You can read the raw data for October 2018 here. Specifically, they look at late time arrivals due to scheduling/maintenance, rather than weather delays and other interesting events. This is because this type of delay is completely manageable by airline and directly affects the customer experience.

Spirit was only late 11% of the time, meaning 89% of all its flights in October arrived when they said they would. They closely beat out Hawaiian in second place and Delta in third place.

Spirit Airlines Wins Top Airline For On Time Flights In The US
The total results of all US airlines in October

“We’ve been evolving over the last couple of years here to transform our airline so I’m really excited for our team to get a No. 1, going back three or four years ago it was a different story.” – Greg Christopher, vice president of Spirit’s operations control center.

This was, as Greg said above, a very different story a few years ago. Back in 2016 Spirit Airlines was the bottom-ranked airline for on-time arrivals for an entire year (11 months in a row!). But that changed when Spirit decided to bring on board member Bob Fornaro as CEO, who changed up operations at the airline. One of the biggest changes that he put in place was tieing executive and manager bonuses on-time arrivals.

However, this is not all good news. Unfortunately for a discount carrier like Spirit, being the number one for on-time arrivals generally puts pressure on their costs and budget, resulting in less profit. Generally, they aim to only be the 4th or 5th most on-time.


The report also records just how many customer complaints each airline receives each month.

Spirit Airlines used to be the most complained about airline in the US aviation industry, but has now found itself in the middle of the pack (with Indigo Partners Frontier leading the charge, and Southwest is the most loved) in October.

Spirit’s complaint rate of 2.46 per 100,000 passengers remained higher in October than average.

What do you think? Is this report accurate?