If your New Year’s resolution includes flying the most punctual airlines-in addition to choosing the best airports- the 2023 annual on-time performance results from Cirium, published January 2, should help.
The aviation analytics company studies data on more than 35 million flights a year, including schedules, airline fleets and airports, to deliver insights on the aviation industry at large. For its annual airline on-time performance rankings, which it has been publishing for more than 15 years, Cirium examined 600 sources of flight data that spanned the entirety of 2023 to determine whether airlines have met their published scheduled arrival times. Arriving within 14 minutes and 59 seconds of that scheduled arrival is considered on time.
To compensate for airlines’ differing sizes and operating models, Cirium adds consideration for passenger carrying capacity and the number of regions the airline serves. To qualify for the global category, an airline must serve three or more international regions daily. All the data is crunched with the help of an advisory board made up of aviation industry experts to ensure accuracy.
The world’s most on-time global airline in 2023, according to the company’s results, was Avianca. Based in Bogota, just under 86% of its flights arrived on time. That’s a jump from sixth place in the rankings in 2022.
“It’s an airline that went through significant transformation-it rebranded itself, and it adopted a new business model,” said Mike Malik, chief marketing officer at Cirium at a press conference, citing Avianca’s rebound following a bankruptcy filing in 2020. The airline emerged out of Chapter 11 reorganization in 2021, slashing its debts and using a low-cost airline model with more affordable prices and point-to-point routes.
Closely following Avianca was Brazil-based Azul Brazilian Airlines, with an 85.51% on-time performance, and Qatar Airways at 85.11%. Delta Air Lines Inc. and Iberia rounded out the top five list.
But even the best airlines are not as punctual these days as they have been in the past. At 85.73%, this year’s highest on-time arrival rate is “about 2 points lower than it used to be,” said Malik. The highest in 2022 was 88.9%; in 2019, it was 86.7%.
Also notable is a dearth of Japanese airlines, which typically rank in the top players. Cirium indicated that it’s unclear why the numbers from Japanese airlines dropped dramatically at the end of the third quarter of 2023.
For North America, Delta was the most on time (84.7%), which is expected for an airline that’s ranked first regionally and among the top globally for three years in a row. Delta was followed by Alaska Airlines (82.25%). But regional rankings reveal a few surprises as well.
With an improvement in third place, American Airlines Group Inc. (80.61%) brought its numbers up in 2023, according to Cirium: In 2022, American’s punctuality rate came in at 78.29%. The airline also ranked third globally in Cirium’s monthly on-time report for November, with 86.5% of its flights arriving on time during a busy Thanksgiving travel period.
African and Middle Eastern carriers also stood above Asia-Pacific airlines’ on-time performance in 2023. It’s a notable change, according to Cirium, which noted that this may be because those regions were able to provide capacity for the demand.
For the second year in a row, Oman Air was the most punctual airline for the Middle East and Africa. Its 92.53% on-time performance was followed by Safair and Royal Jordanian. In Asia-Pacific, Japan’s All Nippon Airways was the most on-time at just 82.75%. Japan Airlines and India-based IndiGo rounded out the top three in the region.
In Europe, Madrid-based Iberia Express (84.5%) topped the rankings, followed by Iberia and Norwegian Air Shuttle.
Latin America’s winner also had strong results: Copa Airlines had an annual on-time performance of 89.46%. (Copa, Oman Air, and Safair are among the airlines that did not qualify for the global rankings.)
Among low-cost carriers, South Africa-based Safair won the top spot, followed by Hong Kong Express and Azul Brazilian Airlines.