Skip to content

The Best and Worst Airlines and Airports in the US: September 2017

Dec. 08, 2017
7 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Hawaiian Airlines ruled the skies for the month of September, while JetBlue struggled to keep up, and Newark Liberty was arguably the worst major airport in the US, according to the latest government statistics.

Scouring through the monthly Air Travel Consumer Report, compiled by the US Department of Transportation's Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings and Bureau of Transportation Statistics, and the Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Safety Authority, clear winners and losers in aviation emerged.

This TPG's first dive into the OAEP stats, but we'll be looking at the stats every month from now on. All our figures come straight from the report and, unless otherwise specified, apply only for September 2017.

On-Time Arrivals

Best: Hawaiian

The Honolulu-based airline arrived on time at US airports an impressive 94% of the time in September, beating the overall average by over 10%. (The average of the 12 biggest domestic carriers was 83.6%.) Hawaiian was also the No. 1 airline for on-time arrivals for all 12 months from September 2016 to September 2017, so its success isn't just a blip.

Worst: JetBlue

New York City's JetBlue fared much worse, arriving late nearly a quarter of the time more than Hawaiian. It was only on time 70.1% to US airports in September. For the entire 12 months previous, JetBlue vied with Virgin America for least on-time airline in the US — JetBlue's 12-month average was 70.7%, just a hair above Virgin America's 69.3%.

dot stats september 2017
In September, Hawaiian and JetBlue were top dog and ... less successful when it came to on-time arrivals.


Best: Hawaiian

Once again, Hawaiian came out on top, with a meager 0.4% of its flights cancelled for the month — 23 out of 6,571 scheduled to 17 airports.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Worst: Spirit

Miramar, Florida's Spirit Airlines canceled more than one out of every 10 flights in September, or a whopping 10.4% (1,350 cancellations out of 12,919 flights to 38 airports).

Bumped Passengers

Best: Delta

For the year to date (January to September 2017), Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines was the winner when it came to overbooking and bumping passengers. The industry euphemism for bumping passengers is "involuntary denied boardings," and Delta had 0.07 per 10,000 passengers, or 679 bumped would-be flyers versus the 99,796,155 who made it on (which, by the way, is a smidge more than the population of Egypt).

Worst: Spirit

Dispirited may be more like it: Spirit's bump rate was more than 12 times worse than Delta for most of the year, or 0.88 involuntary denied boardings per 10,000 passengers (1,502 bumped versus 17,069,647 who made it on).

dot stats sept 2017
Delta averaged far fewer bumped passengers than Spirit.


Best Airline: Delta

Delta shined again in September, with the smallest rate of misplaced-baggage complaints — 1.32 complaints per 1,000 passengers. And, finally, Spirit actually has a reason to be happy with its numbers, as it's the overall best baggage handler from January through September 2017 —1.62 complaints per 1,000 passengers. They might not be the most reliable at getting you to your destination, but at least they get your luggage there!

Worst Airline: ExpressJet

On the other hand, ExpressJet Airlines is probably not going to be your first choice for getting your prized collection of Christmas sweaters home. The airlines, based out of College Park, Georgia, was nearly twice as bad as Delta with luggage, with 2.55 reports per 1,000 passengers in September. It's also the worst from all of January through September 2017, with a troubling 4.02 misplaced-baggage complaints per 1,000 passengers, or a more than one in 250 chance that your luggage would be lost if you flew ExpressJet in that period.

DOT stats sept 2017
ExpressJet didn't do well with baggage.

On-Time Performance

Best: Honolulu International Airport (HNL)

For some reason, the Hawaiian Islands just came out on top in September. Honolulu Airport was easily the most timely major airport in the US, with 95.7% on-time departures (3,858 of them). It also topped the charts for on-time arrivals, with a more-than-reputable 93.7% rate.

Worst (not directed affected by Hurricane Irma): Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

Because of the devastating storm season that hit the Caribbean parts of the mainland US including Texas and Florida, we're not including those airports when assessing worst-of-month timeliness. The worst major airport not directly affected by the storms was Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), with a 77.8% on-time departure rate. Its arrival rate was even worse, with only 70.4% of flights landing in north Jersey on time.

Perfect On-Time Airport: Roswell International Air Center (ROW)

The small airport just south of Roswell, New Mexico, has unearthly powers of timeliness: It had a perfect record of on-time departures and arrivals for September 2017. Granted, that was a total of only 30 flights in and 30 flights out, but it's still impressive, and they deserve kudos.

DOT stats sept 2017
Honolulu was the best major US airport for arrivals and departures in September 2017.

Customer Complaints

Best: Southwest

When it came to customer satisfaction — or, more accurately, lack of customer criticism — Southwest Airlines led the way for avoiding passenger complaints. Only 0.53 passengers per 100,000 lodged official complaints against the airline from January through September 2017.

Worst: Spirit

Yup, Spirit pops up again in a Worst category, with 6.41 complaints per 100,000 passengers for the year to date (January through September).

dot stats sept 2017
More passengers complained about Spirit, on average, than any other airline. By a lot.

The Worst Flight: JetBlue 1005 EWR-FLL (With a Caveat)

Arguably the worst flight to book in all of September was JetBlue Flight 1005 from Newark Liberty (EWR) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL), averaging a late arrival of nearly two hours — 115.90 minutes, to be exact. Still, considering that Fort Lauderdale was hit by Hurricane Irma, we're taking that with a grain of salt.

dot stats sept 2017
JetBlue from Newark to Fort Lauderdale spent the most time late, but major storms may have played a role.

Worst Tarmac Delay: Volaris 881 JFK-MEX

The dubious honor of the most time spent on the tarmac by a single flight went to Volaris 881, from New York-JFK to Mexico City (MEX), which was stuck on the asphalt at JFK for 261 minutes (four hours, 21 minutes!) on Sept. 13.

Times to Fly

Best: 6:00am to 6:59am Departures, 7:00am to 7:59am Arrivals

Morning flights, either coming or going, are your best bet for getting somewhere in a jiffy. When departing, the earlier the better: Flights that left during the 6:00am hour were on time 91.4% of the time in September. Those that arrived between 7:00am and 7:59am were 91.5 likely to be on time.

Worst: 9:00pm to 9:59 Departures, 6:00pm to 6:59pm Arrivals

Evening flights, on the other hand, paled in comparison. Flights leaving between 6:00pm and 6:59pm made it off the ground on time 75.9% of the time. Those scheduled to land between 10:00pm and 10:59pm hit their mark only 75.4% of the time.

dot, stats, sept 2017
Not a morning person? You're going to pay for that in the air.

Charts courtesy of the US Department of Transportation Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings. Featured image by Getty Images.

Featured image by Airplane blueprint. Photo by Getty Images