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Are U.S. Airlines Improving Operational Reliability?

Delayed flights, cancellations, lost baggage ... While air travel is notorious for unpredictability, United States airlines canceled fewer flights and lost fewer bags in November 2016 than in any month in more than two decades.

In January 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation published their "Air Travel Consumer Report," which ranks the 12 U.S. airlines: The 10 that fly large jets (with the exception of Allegiant Air, which doesn't earn enough revenue to qualify), as well as regional carriers ExpressJet and SkyWest.

In November 2016, the nation's 12 largest airlines canceled 0.29 flights—the lowest rate since the government began tracking monthly cancellations in 1995. Here's how they rank individually:

RANK AIRLINE FLIGHT CANCELLATION RATE (%)
1  Delta Air Lines  0.0
2 Alaska Airlines  0.1
3 Frontier 0.1
4  Hawaiian Airlines  0.2
5  JetBlue Airways  0.2
6 Southwest Airlines  0.2
7 Virgin America  0.2
8 United Airlines  0.3
9  American Airlines  0.3
10 Spirit Airlines  0.3
11 SkyWest Airlines 0.7
12  ExpressJet Airlines  0.9
 

Combined, carriers mishandled 2.02 bags per 1,000 passengers—the fewest bags since 1987, when the government began monitoring baggage. Here's how they rank individually:

RANK AIRLINE MISSING BAGS REPORTED (PER 1,000 PASSENGERS)
1 Virgin America 0.96
2 Alaska Airlines 1.14
3 Delta Air Lines 1.23
4 JetBlue Airways 1.31
5 Spirit Airlines 1.69
6 United Airlines 1.93
7 Hawaiian Airlines 2.32
8 American Airlines 2.39
9 Southwest Airlines 2.41
10 SkyWest Airlines 2.62
11 Frontier Airlines 3.09
12 ExpressJet Airlines 3.16

In November 2016, the dozen airlines boasted a combined on-time arrival rate of 86.5. Here's how they rank individually:

RANK AIRLINE ON-TIME ARRIVAL RATE (%)
1 Hawaiian Airlines 91.5
2 Delta Air Lines 91.4
3 Alaska Airlines 88.0
4 Frontier Airlines 87.5
5 Spirit Airlines 86.4
6 United Airlines 86.1
7 Southwest Airlines 86.1
8 American Airlines 85.4
9 SkyWest Airlines 85.2
10 JetBlue Airways 84.3
11 ExpressJet 82.8
12 Virgin America 81.4
 


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