Delta’s on-time record named best in North America, again

Delta Air Lines jets depart and arrive at tartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023.
Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Delta Air Lines jets depart and arrive at tartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023. Miguel Martinez /

Delta Air Lines had the best on-time performance among carriers in North America, according to a new ranking based on flights operated in 2023.

It’s the sixth time in a row that Atlanta-based Delta has been the top-ranked airline for annual on-time performance by aviation analytics firm Cirium. Delta has held the title for every year since 2017, with the exception of 2020, when the ranking was paused because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, 84.7% of Delta’s flights arrived on time, defined as arriving at the gate within 15 minutes of the scheduled arrival time, according to Cirium. That earned it the top spot.

Delta said among its efforts to keep flights running on time is its own meteorology team that monitors forecasts for weather and turbulence to adjust schedules and flight plans when needed.

In 2nd place in the Cirium ranking was Alaska Airlines, with 82.3% of its flights arriving on time. Major carriers American, United and Southwest Airlines came in 3rd, 4th and 5th in North America.

Dallas-based Southwest, the second-largest carrier in Atlanta, had 76.3% of its flights arrive on time in 2023, the report said.

In the bottom half of the 10 large carriers in North America ranked by Cirium were Spirit in 6th place, followed by WestJet, Frontier, JetBlue and Air Canada.

The Cirium ranking is different from the federal ranking of airlines for on-time performance, which is released later by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That ranking includes only U.S. carriers and typically includes other carriers that are smaller, and sometimes have better on-time performance.

Cirium’s report had Colombian carrier Avianca Airlines as top-ranked globally for on-time performance. Delta came in 4th in the world for on-time performance.

The U.S. Department of Transportation on Wednesday said airlines canceled about1.2% of their flights in 2023, the lowest cancellation rate in a decade. The DOT also said travel around the year-end holidays was “notably smooth,” with a significantly lower cancellation rate than the 2022 holiday period when a massive storm triggered flight cancellations and a Southwest Airlines meltdown.

“The airline industry has emerged from the shadows of the pandemic,” said Cirium CEO Jeremy Bowen in written comments. In 2024, “The recovery is expected to continue, albeit at a slightly moderated pace.”

The airline industry “faces new challenges and uncertainties,” including geopolitical tensions and environmental pressures, according to Bowen. “How airlines navigate these factors will be crucial in determining their success in the coming year,” he added.

Cirium ranking of airlines in North America for on-time arrival performance in 2023

1. Delta Air Lines, 84.7%

2. Alaska Airlines, 82.3%

3. American Airlines, 80.6%

4. United Airlines, 80%

5. Southwest Airlines, 76.3%

6. Spirit Airlines, 71.2%

7. WestJet, 69.3%

8. Frontier Airlines, 68.7%

9. JetBlue Airways, 68.3%

10. Air Canada, 63.2%

Source: Cirium