Here are the airlines with the most cancellations and delays this summer
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Air travelers have been dealing with severe delays this summer, with U.S. airlines canceling flights by the thousands and delaying even more.
The causes of the disruptions are complex and multifaced. Reasons include a shortage of pilots and other workers throughout the entire airline ecosystem, air traffic control staffing challenges and the usual summer thunderstorms. These are combined with a surge in air travel demand not seen since before COVID-19 and the same supply chain issues that exist throughout the broader economy.
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To further complicate the challenges, U.S. carriers published ambitious schedules — perhaps too ambitious — for the summer; they were trying to capture as much of the renewed demand as possible, despite not having the resources to effectively operate those flights.
This has led airlines to cancel flights and frequencies, roll back schedules and combine frequencies on the same routes. So, airlines have drawn the ire of politicians, regulators, passengers — and even pilots. Some pilots have taken to picketing in public over schedules and pay as part of their negotiations for new labor contracts. (These pickets involve off-duty pilots and are not the same thing as a strike.)
Still, as data from FlightAware shows, not all airlines are dealing with the same level of disruption.
(Full stats below.)
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Although problems began in May, particularly over the Memorial Day weekend travel period, things became markedly worse in June, according to an analysis of FlightAware data by TPG. Still, the overall numbers for the mainline carriers don’t seem terrible from June 1-28, at first glance.
Delta Air Lines, which made headlines this week for a preemptive flight-change waiver ahead of expected “operational challenges” around July 4, canceled 2,731 flights, or 3.3% of its schedule. United Airlines performed slightly better, with just 3.1% of its scheduled canceled — 1,955 flights — while American Airlines canceled 4,488 flights, roughly 5.2% of its scheduled mainline flights.
Southwest Airlines, meanwhile, had the best completion rate of the major airlines, with just 1,163 cancellations, or 1.1% of its schedule. JetBlue canceled 710 flights, or 2.8% of its schedule while Alaska Airlines canceled just 143, or 0.7% of its schedule.
The numbers are certainly worse than in previous years. In the same period in 2019, for instance, United canceled 441 flights — 0.7% — while Delta canceled 276, or 0.3%. American, on the other hand, had a challenging June that year, with 3,573 flights canceled, or 3.9%.
Nevertheless, the figures still mean even the worst performer, American, has completed nearly 95% of flights. (Of course, that statistic does little comfort to passengers who are stranded at airports or left waiting on the phone for hours while the hold music loops.)
Where things get complicated — and worse, in terms of cancellations — is the regional airlines.
Regional carriers operate shorter and smaller flights on behalf of the mainline carriers, and two of them have fared markedly worse this month.
Republic Airways — which operates flights on behalf of American, Delta and United — canceled 2,443 flights, or 8.5% of its schedule, during the period from June 1 through June 28.
Endeavor, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Delta and flies exclusively on behalf of the Atlanta carrier, canceled 1,360 flights, or 7%.
Note, of course, that these numbers represent the total for the month. On specific days and dates, the disparity between airlines has been greater.
For instance, from Friday, June 24, through Sunday, June 26, Delta canceled 612 mainline flights — 6.9% — while American canceled 304, or 3.2%, and United canceled 192, or 2.8%.
May 1-June 28: Cancellation and delay stats for the “Big 4” U.S. airlines plus JetBlue (mainline flights)
- American Airlines: 5,663 canceled (3.2%), 43,763 delayed (24.8%).
- Delta Air Lines: 4,964 canceled (3.0%), 32,361 delayed (19.3%).
- JetBlue: 1,234 canceled (2.3%), 17,518 delayed (32.1%).
- Southwest Airlines: 1,907 canceled (0.9%), 58,147 delayed (26.7%).
- United Airlines: 3,244 canceled (2.5%), 29,940 delayed (22.8%).
June 1-28 only: Cancellation and delay stats for the “Big 4” U.S. airlines plus JetBlue (mainline flights)
- American Airlines: 4,488 canceled (5.2%), 25,149 delayed (28.9%).
- Delta Air Lines: 2,731 canceled (3.3%), 17,092 delayed (21.0%).
- JetBlue: 710 canceled (2.8%), 9,088 delayed (35.9%).
- Southwest Airlines: 1,163 canceled (1.1%), 31,409 delayed (29.5%).
- United Airlines: 1,955 canceled (3.1%), 14,801 delayed (23.3%).
June 1-28 only: Regional carriers
- Endeavor: 1,360 canceled (7.0%), 3,394 delayed (17.4%).
- Envoy: 128 canceled (0.6%), 3,496 delayed (17.0%).
- Mesa: 194 canceled (1.9%), 2,087 delayed (20.6%).
- Republic: 2,443 canceled (8.5%), 6,213 delayed (21.6%).
- PSA: 691 canceled (3.7%), 4,114 delayed (22.2%).
- SkyWest: 391 canceled (0.6%), 10,959 delayed (17.2%).
The bigger problem: Delays
All airlines dealt with major delays in June, and when flights are full and airlines are short on customer service staff, that means lots of missed connections.
The worst on-time performer by percentage was JetBlue, with 9,088 delayed flights, roughly 35.9% of its schedule. Southwest fared only slightly better, with a staggering 31,409 delays, or 29.5%. American came in next, with 25,149 delayed flights — 28.9%.
Delta and United performed better, but still delayed more than one-fifth of their flights. Delta had 17,092 delays — 21% — while United had 14,801 delays — 23.3%.
Interestingly, the regional airlines performed on par with, or better, than the mainlines. Republic delayed 6,213 flights (21.6%) while Endeavor delayed 3,394, or just 17.4%. Other regional airlines, such as SkyWest, Mesa, PSA and Envoy, were all in the same general range.
Delays, which can last from just a few minutes to several hours or more, can cause passengers to be late for meetings or events and miss their connections; some passengers are even stranded overnight — or potentially longer.
The fallout from delays is exacerbated by the current high travel demand. Many flights are operating mostly or completely full, meaning it can be difficult to get a seat on the next flight if a passenger misses a connection.
How to manage flight delays and cancellations
With the current meltdown, it can be stressful to head to the airport as the July 4 weekend kicks off.
The best thing to do is to proactively check your flights in the day leading up to travel and at the airport up until boarding. Catch problems early and deal with them quickly.
Head to the airport earlier than normal, and be prepared for long lines — travelers are routinely reporting hour-plus waits to check bags or go through security.
TPG has guides on what to do during delays and cancellations, so be sure to check out our tips:
- Your flight is canceled or delayed – here’s what you should do next
- 7 tips to avoid getting stranded by airlines when things go wrong
- 3 things to do if your flight is delayed
- Why do flight cancellations and delays keep happening?
Featured photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy.
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