Delta and Alaska tie for best on-time arrivals in October

October was also a great month to fly with your pet

Every month, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issues an Air Travel Consumer Report detailing the performance of the nation’s airlines. The 70-page report issued in December has specific details on how well the carriers did in October 2019.

An important metric contained in the report, at least for those who travel with their pets, is the number of incidents involving the loss, injury or death of animals during air transportation. During October, there were no pets who died, were injured or lost across all U.S. airlines. Zero.

Callie crated for travel

Courtesy Paws on the Park Pet Store, Normandy Park, Wash.

On-time performance

One of the major measures of how well an airline performs, at least for traveling humans, is its on-time record. How many flights took off within 15 minutes of their scheduled time, and how many landed within 15 minutes of when they were supposed to arrive?

While the report provides the details for each individual airline including the smaller regional carriers that fly under the majors' banners, it is most useful to look at the performance of a carrier’s entire network, which includes its branded codeshare partners. After all, a passenger who bought a ticket through Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) may not know (or care) that they’re actually being transported by one of Delta’s five codeshare partners. Perhaps they bought Delta because they like it, trust it, or have most of their accrued miles with the airline, so the rest is just details.

Delta tied for the best on-time arrival record of all U.S. airlines in October

In October, the nation’s most reliable airlines or airline networks for on-time arrivals were Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) and Alaska Airlines (NYSE:ALK). Both airlines saw 85.5 percent of their flights arrive on time. Delta serves 221 U.S. while Alaska serves 97 airports.

Bargain carrier Spirit (NASDAQ:SAVE) was third at 84.5 percent over 50 airports while Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) was fourth, at 84 percent across 88 airports. Allegiant Air (NASDAQ:ALGT) was fifth at 83.4 percent across 119 airports.

Hawaiian Airlines (NYSE:HA), which topped the list in September, fell to No. 6, with 83 percent of its flights arriving on time at 22 airports. jetBlue Airways (NASDAQ:JBLU) was No. 7 with 80.7 percent on-time arrivals at 66 airports followed by American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL) at 80.3 percent across 236 airports, United Airlines (NYSE:UAL) at 79.5 percent at 234 airports and Frontier Airlines (NASDAQ:FRNT) at 74.5 percent on-time arrivals at 102 airports.

The airline with the most on-time arrivals in September fell to No. 6 in October

The overall industry average across 369 airports was 82.2 percent of flights arriving on time.

On-time departures were not reported by carrier in the report but by airport. That makes sense when you consider that departure delays are, more often than not, a function of what’s happening at and around the airport in terms of traffic, weather delays, etc.


Another measure of airlines’ performance is the percentage of its flight operations that were cancelled. As measured by an airline’s whole network, the report lists Allegiant and Delta as tied for the best record in October with 0.1 percent of their scheduled operations being called off, but some perspective is required here. Allegiant had 7,866 flight operations scheduled for October while Delta had over 151,000.

jetBlue was third with 0.4 percent cancelled followed by Spirit at 0.7 percent; Hawaiian at 0.8 percent; United at 0.9 percent; Alaska at 1.0 percent followed by Southwest, American and Frontier at 1.2 percent, 1.3 percent, and 1.5 percent, respectively.

The overall industry average was 0.9 percent of flight being cancelled across 369 airports.

Mishandled baggage

What are the chances of your bags arriving when you do? Overall, pretty good, actually.

As in September, American Airlines had the worst record in October, with 6.67 bags per 1,000 being “mishandled.” By the numbers, that’s a 0.00667 percent chance your bag will be misdirected, lost, or otherwise mishandled; about two-thirds of one percent.

However, I was apparently targeted by the Fickle Finger of Fate in 2018 on my way back from the Florida panhandle – on American. While I was heading to my home airport of Seattle-Tacoma International (SEA), my bag was taking a side trip to Santiago, Chile (SCL). I got it back a few days later with all my possessions intact and, in fairness, I should mention that American did right in terms of the courtesy it extended for my trouble.

The best in September was Allegiant, with 1.68 bags per 1,000 misdirected. Southwest mishandled 3.57 bags per 1,000 followed by Delta (4.03 bags), Spirit (4.08), Alaska (4.14), Frontier (4.56), jetBlue (4.99), United (5.14), and Hawaiian at second from the bottom at 5.92 misdirected bags per 1,000.

The report, which is available here, also has figures for mishandled scooters and wheelchairs; passengers denied boarding; consumer complaints (overall and by category); civil rights complaints (other than disability-related); and complaints about TSA activities and procedures.

Reports are issued approximately the 15th of each month and detail performance two months prior.

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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