Delta Is The United States Top Airline For Punctuality

Yesterday data and analytics experts Cirium released its annual on-time performance report. This showed that Delta Air Lines was the world’s third most punctual airline, in addition to the most punctual in North America.

Delta Air Lines, On Time Performance, Punctuality
Delta Air Lines was crowned the most punctual airline in North America. Photo: Getty Images

Over the past five years, the race for top on-time performance between America’s big six has varied much less than in the UK and Ireland. Delta Airlines and Alaska have always been in the top two, and JetBlue has always ranked at the bottom. However, the average on-time performance of airlines has remained fairly constant throughout the past half a decade.

Delta wins a top title

Delta Air Lines was crowned the world’s third most punctual airline yesterday in the Cirium 2019 On-Time Performance Awards. Overall, throughout 2019 the airline has achieved an on-time arrival rate of 84.84%. This means that of the 1,011,488 flights operated by the airline, around 860,000 arrived at their destination on time.


The airline’s fleet of 932 aircraft flew a total distance of 1.9 billion kilometers, giving each aircraft an average daily utilization of 9.31 hours. However, according to the data from Cirium’s report, the last four days of 2019 didn’t bode well for the US-based airline, with just around 50% on-time performance on these days.

American Airlines, on-time performance, punctuality
American Airlines ranked fourth in the United States. Photo: Getty Images

The United States as a whole

Of course, being third in the world for on-time performance also meant that Delta was the top in the whole of the United States. The airline was followed closely by Alaska Airlines who achieved 83.02% OTP across just under 500,000 flights. Over the past 5 years, the top two slots have always featured Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

In third and fourth places were Southwest Airlines and American Airlines who achieved an OTP of 81.32% and 80.46% respectively. American Airlines operated the greatest number of flights at 2,360,319. Next, United Airlines took the fifth spot. In fact, across 1.8 million flights, 78.05% were on time.

Us Carriers, on-time performance, puntuality
The top six airlines based on the number of flights against on-time performance. Graph: Simple Flying | Data: Cirium

Bringing up the rear, as per the past five years, was JetBlue, who clocked in almost 10% lower at 74.87%. The airline operated the fewest flights at just 327,530. Interestingly, the top four US airlines all ranked higher than Virgin Atlantic, the UK’s top airline for punctuality.

The past five years

Over the past five years, the six airlines have been split into three groups. Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines have always placed in the top two. Third to fifth place has been contested between Southwest, American, and United, which have each held each place at one point. Then, JetBlue has always placed at the bottom of the pack. Relatively speaking, the gap between 5th and 6th place for on-time performance has always been fairly large.

Us Carriers, Punctuality, On-time performance
On-time performance over the past five years. Graph: Simple Flying | Data: Cirium

However, a new year is now underway, meaning that the tables could be turned on their head. Who knows, this time next year, JetBlue could hold the top spot, however, if the past five years are anything to go by, we have a fair idea.

All of the data presented in this article was kindly provided by

Do you think Delta deserves the top spot? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!


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Gerry S

I am perhaps the world's biggest shill for Delta. Great airline. Travel Delta and you will be on time. Almost every time.


Have traveled between Europe and USA many times. Delta is head and shoulders the best American airline but air Canada is the best north american airline! Having said that they still have to catch up with many European airlines


What do you mean “Do you think Delta deserves the top spot? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!”? This is a facts based point, not one based on readers comments. It doesn’t matter what or who you think belongs in the top slot, Delta is it, based a… Read more »

Richard J

I fly with Delta in most of my travels out of Atlanta and most of the time we land early and take off at the right time. Does the new runway system that is around three years old have something to do with this? It has three runways for landings… Read more »

Richard Johnson

I fly with Delta a lot and most of my flights are from Atlanta and most of my flights now are arriving early and departing on time. Around three years ago they built the 5th runway with 3 for landings and the 2 longer runways for takeoffs going east to… Read more »

Tara Williams

Sorry, but Alaska is better! Air Canada? Come on! I hear their passengers consistently bitching about poor service and their snippy French attitude!