What to Know about Summer Weather and Best/Worst Airline On-Time Performances

The latest government figures for delayed flights in April have plenty of good news and bad news plus trends to pay attention to for summer travel. Like, weather.

LISTEN: FareCompare travel expert Rick Seaney has been stuck in plenty of airports and offers this advice.

Best and Worst Airlines for Delays

In general the airlines did well in April with an overall on-time arrival rate of just over 79 percent. Better than the previous month and better than April of last year.

Winners: As usual, Hawaiian and Alaska grabbed the top spots with Virgin America not far behind. Delta ranked first among the legacy carriers.

Losers: Envoy, previously known as the perennial laggard American Eagle, actually did better than Southwest which had the worst performance of a large carrier.

Airlines On-Time Arrival Percentages – Overall 79.6%

1. Hawaiian 94.0%
2. Alaska 90 .3%
3. Virgin America 86.5%
4. Delta 85.2%
5. American/US Airways 82.7%
6. United 81.8%
7. SkyWest 80.9%
8. Frontier 79.7%
9. JetBlue 77.4%
10. Envoy Air (formerly American Eagle) 75.2%
11. Southwest/AirTran 75.0%
12. ExpressJet 74.2%

Why Delays Happen

So many factors go into creating a flight delay, but while weather is one of them, it’s not the biggest problem. Here are the top reasons for flight delays according to Bureau of Transportation stastics:

  • Late arriving aircraft: 7.47%
  • National aviation system delays (can include heavy traffic, airport operation problems): 5.75%
  • Air carrier delay (can include maintenance or crew problems, etc.): 5.34%
  • Weather: .04%

Weather – A Potentially Huge Problem in Summer

But that was April. It’s a much different story in winter, especially compared to summer, right? Take a look at these winter/summer statistics.

  • February 2014: Weather-delayed flights – 0.74%
  • July 2013: Weather-delayed flights – 0.76%

As FareCompare has previously reported, summer weather (especially treacherous lightning and thunderstorms) can create huge delays and jam up airports. In fact the FAA says summer storms can be worse than winter ones since they form quickly and can stretch for hundreds of miles. If you run into weather delays this summer, there are a few things you can do.

What to do when your flight is delayed or canceled

Contact information: Be sure your airline has a phone contact or email address for you. If you didn’t sign up for the airline’s miles program, there may be no contact info for you and they won’t be able to let you know in advance if there’s a problem.

If you’re at the airport: Get in line for a gate agent and get on the phone at the same time; who ever is first to get a seat on the ‘next flight out’ wins this game.

Connect on social media: Some airlines are better  than others at responding to tweets but it’s often a good way to reach an airline quickly.

Get online: Look for alternate routes; if you can present a solution to a harried gate agent deluged by passengers, you could be on your way before anyone else.

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Published: June 11, 2014