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U.S. And Canada’s Best And Worst Airlines And Airports

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Best And Worst Airlines Based On Flight Delays And Cancellations

Best And Worst Airlines Based On Flight Delays And Cancellations

By Paul Hoffman (BestBrokers)

With summer just a few months away, thousands of people are now planning their vacations, booking hotels and looking for discounted flights. Travel and tourism, however, are still struggling to return to normalcy after the stringent measures taken by governments in an attempt to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The aviation industry was hit particularly hard, with restrictions placed on both domestic and international flights. In North America, the sector has been experiencing a robust recovery over the past year and a half, fueled by the increase in air passenger traffic among other factors. However, passengers in Canada and the United States, in particular, are still being affected by terrible flight delays, costing them money and time.

So, which airlines and airports in Canada and the U.S. are having the worst delays? The team at BestBrokers analyzed monthly On-Time Performance (OTP) data from OAG, a UK-based travel data provider, and calculated the percentage of delayed flights for the largest airports and carriers in the two countries in 2023. We found that the least dependable airline is Canada’s PAL Airlines with a total of 68.64% delayed or canceled flights. The least punctual airport is also in Canada, namely the Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Dorval, with only 62.70% of all departures there being on time.

North America’s aviation industry has seen a strong recovery in 2023 with a 28.3% increase in annual traffic compared to the previous year. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), it has the second-largest aviation market in the world, expected to take over China as number one by 2027. Last year, the capacity of boarded flights also rose by 22.4% year-over-year (YOY), which shows a strong comeback from the pandemic-related restrictions.

Various challenges such as inflation and staff shortages, however, have led to an increasing number of flight disruptions and financial losses for businesses and consumers. One of the reasons for the many delayed or canceled flights in the United States last year was the record-breaking number of bookings throughout the year and especially in May, reports the US Department of Transportation.

Severe weather conditions were another cause for many flight disruptions. Thunderstorms delayed and canceled more than 7,800 flights for just one day during last summer. The horrific weather continued with hurricane Idalia’s landing in Florida in August making air travel impossible for many Americans. Experts claim the global pilot shortage is more concentrated in Canada and the U.S. than anywhere else in the world with a current deficit of 11% in the workforce. This number is expected to grow much higher over the next decade.

Of the 17 carriers we looked at, the worst one for 2023 in terms of flight delays is the Canadian regional airline PAL Airlines. Over the past twelve months, 19.79% of its flights were delayed, while the cancellation rate was a staggering 48.86%.

The country’s flag carrier, Air Canada, surprisingly ranks as the second-worst airline in the region. Based on the data we analyzed, we calculated that 35.69% of its 381,218 flights in 2023 were delayed and 3.72% were canceled. More than 40% of Air Canada’s fleet is over 20 years old. John Gradek, an aviation expert from McGill University, Canada, claims that airlines are running their aircraft too frequently, operating at full capacity which leads to delays and flight cancellations when a mechanical problem or an unexpected event catches the company off guard.

The third-worst airline for flight delays in the region according to our research is Silver Airways, a local carrier based in Hollywood, Florida. An estimated 37.29% of its arrivals last year were delayed, while the cancellation rate was 0.73%. There are several major airlines with relatively poor performance in terms of on-time arrivals in 2023. Apart from Air Canada, these are the U.S.-based American Frontier Airlines, JetBlue, and Spirit Airlines, as well as Canada’s Westjet, all having more than 30% of their flights delayed or canceled last year.

As far as best performances go, there are no surprises for first place with Delta Airlines scoring only 16.83% canceled or delayed flights. What is curious, however, is the 2nd place for Alaska Airlines with an impressive OTP (on-time performance) rate of 81.11%. The airline, which is substantially smaller in scale, ranked higher with only 18.21% of delayed and 0.68% of canceled flights compared to other major carriers on the chart like American Airlines (3rd best with 20.95% canceled and delayed flights), United Airlines (4th with 21.39% cancelations and delays combined) and Southwest Airlines (5th with 24.55%).

Alaska Airlines recently announced plans to acquire and merge with Hawaiian Airlines in an attempt to compete on the big scene with the four major competitors (American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines) who dominate over 70% of US domestic air travel.

All the top guns (Delta Airlines, American Airways, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines) achieved solid financial results in 2023. United Airlines indicated a 16% increase in first-class tickets as well as a 20% profit growth in basic economy seats. The last quarter of the year was the most profitable as always for the big four. Delta Airlines reported a 6% revenue gain YOY compared to 2022 and Southwest marked a record $6.1 billion in revenues or a 9.6% increase YOY.

American Airlines also saw tremendous success with revenue growth of 7.6% over 2022. In 2024, the airline is expanding its network predominantly throughout Latin America and Australia. The American-Quantas partnership will offer over 200 destinations in North America and almost 70 destinations in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific which is more than any other partnership globally. Together they announced American Airlines’ first non-stop flight from Dallas, TX to Brisbane, Australia.



For this analysis, the team at BestBrokers looked at the On-Time Performance database for airlines and airports by OAG, a UK-based provider of aviation industry data and intelligence. We accessed the OTP reports for the twelve months of 2023 and calculated the delay and cancellation rates for the entire year, focusing exclusively on American and Canadian carriers and airports.

To avoid comparing major airlines with small ones that fly several times per year, however, we only included airlines and airports with more than 20,000 flights for 2023. This left us with a total of 17 airlines and 86 airports in Canada and the United States.

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