A Marginal Improvement In Thanksgiving Punctuality Is An Achievement To Celebrate

As the dust settles on the latest seasonal holiday and attention switches to the next one in four weeks’ time, we’ve analyzed the punctuality of all airports and airlines on Wednesday 22nd November (the day before Thanksgiving) against the same day last year, and the good news is that punctuality has improved year on year, albeit by the smallest possible margin of one percentage point to 85.7%. 

Whilst flights may have left on time the most important measurement is of course the percentage of on-time arrivals, and across the major US carriers last Wednesday just under 18,400 flights arrived on time! As seems to always be the case, weather disruption impacted some airlines more than most and some parts of the country experienced almost no disruption, so which airlines were the best performers on one of the busiest days of the year?

Delta Air Lines Outdoes United 

Only two of the major airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, achieved over 90% on-time performance across their domestic networks, and in a reversal of positions from 2022, Delta took pole position over United. Southwest Airlines slipped from third spot in 2022 to fifth this year while Alaska Airlines’ near 90% OTP moved them into third spot. Unfortunately for Cape Air a 33% on time performance places them firmly at the bottom of the table compared to their 69.5% performance last year when weather related delays were not such an issue for the carrier.

 Cancellation rates on the 22nd November were exactly the same as the same day in 2023 with Cape Air the most impacted while airlines such as Alaska, Breeze and Spirit all reported significantly fewer cancellations than on the same day last year. 

West Coast Is Best 

Without wishing to start a wider debate, on-time performance at the West Coast Airports was noticeably ahead of other parts of the US last Wednesday, although with three airports reporting greater than 90% OTP rates, still none of them could beat Denver airport which claimed first place with a near perfect 94.7% on-time arrival rate. Charlotte saw the greatest deterioration in its OTP rate, from a near nine out of ten arrivals on time last year, down to just 73% this year. La Guardia also slips back, with weather a factor at both airports. 


The pressure under which both airlines and airports operate on peak travel days cannot be underestimated and there will always be one airline or one airport that suffers more across a country as large as the United States where weather conditions can change at short notice. For the industry to have delivered even the most marginal of improvements in OTP when more flights were operated this year than last is a remarkable achievement for everyone concerned. Equally, every airline and airport knows that it can’t rest on its laurels as the next holiday season approaches. Importantly for all travellers it’s great to know that all things being equal, you have a near 90% chance of arriving on time when you next travel.

OAG releases a monthly update on airlines' and airports' monthly performance. Use the form below to receive an alert once a month when new data is added.



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