Delta planes at domestic gates at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Hartsfield-Jackson tops in on-time flights for Jan-May

Hartsfield-Jackson International ranked No. 1 for on-time arrivals among the 30 largest airports in the country in the first five months of the year, according to the latest federal statistics.

The Atlanta airport had 85.37 percent of flights arriving on time for the period from January to May 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported this week.

That still means roughly 1 out of 6 flights arrived late.

But that was better than the delay rate at other airports. Hartsfield-Jackson beat out the Portland, Ore. airport, which held the top spot in the same period of 2018.

A key reason Atlanta has a high rate of on-time arrivals is that its dominant carrier, Delta Air Lines, ranks high for on-time performance. Delta comes in at No. 2 for on-time performance among U.S. airlines, with more than 85 percent of its flights arriving on time in May.

While Hawaiian Airlines is No. 1 among carriers for on-time performance, it is based in Honolulu and does not dominate any of the 30 largest airports in the country as Delta does in Atlanta.

At Hartsfield-Jackson, Delta had 89.5 percent of its flights arriving on time in the month of May, and its Delta Connection subsidiary Endeavor Air had 90 percent of flights arriving on time. That was the best performance among airlines in Atlanta, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

But as frequent travelers know, there are still plenty of times when flights are late.

Your chances of having an on-time flight are generally better earlier in the day.

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics releases data on the on-time rates by the hour at each airport. In Atlanta, for example, flights in May between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. had a more than 90 percent chance of departing on time.

But since any delays that occur during the day can make planes late for subsequent flights, delays can snowball and punctuality tends to worsen as the day wears on. By the 5 p.m. hour, the on-time departure rate at Hartsfield-Jackson declined to 79.5 percent, according to the May statistics. And it dipped as low as 72.6 percent between 8 and 10 p.m.

Percentage of reporting operating carriers flight operations departing on-time by departure airport and time of day, May 2019. Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics Air Travel Consumer Report

Travelers should also keep in mind that security lines can be particularly long in the early morning hours and during other busy periods -- and if your flight is departing on schedule, it’s even more important to get to the gate in time.

Hartsfield-Jackson officials recommend getting to the terminal at least two hours before domestic flights.

With summer crowds filling the airport, many travelers have encountered security lines stretching through the terminal into baggage claim during busy periods.

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About the Author

Kelly Yamanouchi
Kelly Yamanouchi
Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi covers airlines and the airport.