Our years of experience in the air travel industry have taught us many things, including how difficult it is to get travelers from point A to point B promptly and safely.
One of our greatest privileges as a data company is taking the opportunity each year to recognize the airlines that have fulfilled their commitment to operational excellence. It takes hard work and focused attention for an airline to achieve exceptional on-time performance in spite of the many challenges working against them.
The On-time Performance Service Awards program is designed to shed a positive light on airlines as well as give the best of best the acknowledgment they deserve. Additionally, we aim to provide an example of success to others in the industry.
For the past few weeks, we have been releasing a five-year on-time performance review of each airline that has won one of our OPS Awards multiple years in a row. This week, we are highlighting the performance of Alaska Airlines. Alaska has been the most punctual airline in the North America for seven consecutive years.
Check out our infographic to see how Alaska Airlines has maintained its position as the most on-time airline in North America:
Alaska is the best of the best in North America
No other airline has won our OPS Award as often as Alaska has. The airline is head and shoulders above the rest and has claimed the title seven out of eight times with an average on-time performance of 86.96%.
Alaska’s on-time arrival for the past five years:
- 2012: 87.26%
- 2013: 87.08%
- 2014: 87.80%
- 2015: 85.66%
- 2016: 87.00%
What is especially impressive about Alaska is the consistency of their on-time performance. For example, they were able to maintain at least an 87% on-time arrival for three consecutive years. Even when their performance experienced a slight dip to 85.66% in 2015, they were able to pull their on-time arrivals back up to 87% the following year.
Flying more, but getting better
One of the most significant metrics we noticed in our analysis was the number of flights Alaska has added over the years. In 2012, we tracked 294,072 flights for Alaska and by 2016 this number rose to 356,596 flights. Adding over 62,000 new flights could have put a strain on Alaska’s operations; however, the opposite seems to be true. As Alaska adds more flights, they are able to maintain consistent on-time performance.
Additionally, it seems as though Alaska has a good record of completing its scheduled flights. In the past five years, the airline’s completion factor—or the percentage of scheduled flights completed whether on-time of not—has been at least 98.7% or above.
A look at their most on-time routes
To calculate the most on-time Alaska routes, we pulled the on-time performance data for each individual route over a five-year period. Since airlines typically add and discontinue routes over time, we only included routes that have been in existence for the entire five-year period in our overall analysis.
Of all its routes, Alaska’s flights from Sacramento International Airport (SMF) to Portland International Airport (PDX) were the most on-time with an average on-time arrival of 92.69%, followed by:
- San Jose, CA (SJC) to Portland, OR (PDX): 92.64%
- Spokane, WA (GEG) to Portland, OR (PDX): 92.49%
- Oakland, CA (OAK) to Portland, Oregon (PDX): 92.45%
- Seattle, WA (SEA) to Orange County, CA (SNA): 92.19%
It’s very clear that if you’re flying into Portland from airports on the West Coast, then you should fly Alaska. For the past five years, nearly all of Alaska’s top routes have all been those traveling into Portland International Airport (PDX).
Best days to fly with Alaska
To calculate Alaska’s most on-time day of the week, we averaged the on-time performance for each day across the five-year period. From 2012 to 2016, Alaska’s best day to fly was Saturday with an average on-time arrival of 89.03%. Second to Saturday, is Tuesday with an on-time arrival of 88.7%. Tuesday was the most on-time day in 2013 and 2014, while Saturday was the most on-time day to fly in 2012, 2015 and 2016.
A data-driven airline
One of the main reasons Alaska has been able to maintain its title as most on-time North American airline is the essential role performance data plays in their operational planning. While nothing trumps safety, Alaska uses performance data to help drive strategic decisions in each department.
They hold monthly operational planning meetings, where representatives from dozens of agencies, from flight attendant training to maintenance to the schedule and operations people, attend to report their metrics and key findings in regards to their performance. There are about 30 people at the meeting who arrive ready to dive into detail on little things that affect whether a flight departs on time. Together, the team analyzes why an event happened and what they need to do to prevent it in the future, whether that means additional training, messaging, technology, etc.
Why you should get OTP data from a third party
When an airline makes a statement about their own operations, they’re often met with skepticism. With all due respect to airlines, many people are distrusting by nature and often doubt that airlines will report accurate information. It can prevent a lot of headaches to use a company like FlightStats to report on-time performance metrics.
Both airlines and their customers can trust that we will report an accurate, reliable ranking of flight status information. This is especially useful to airlines that want to make on-time performance commitments to their corporate customers or tout their impressive on-time performance ranking in marketing materials. Using a third party source like FlightStats provides instant credibility.
Accomplishing more with OTP
Our free monthly on-time performance reports and annual OPS Awards are just the beginning of what you can access. We offer an OTP Analysis Workbook that provides a comprehensive and granular analysis of key performance metrics. These workbooks include visualizations and reports focusing on airline and alliance benchmarking, departure and arrival statistics, trend analysis, carrier performance comparison, and daily/hourly analysis. Reviewing these metrics will reveal the strengths and weaknesses of your airline and your competitors. With our data, you can continue to improve your operations and maybe even win our OPS Awards next year. Stay tuned for more five-year on-time performance reviews in the coming weeks.