It appears Spirit Airlines is heading in an EasyJet rather than Ryanair direction. The ultra-low-cost carrier has much to boast about on many metrics, including operational performance. But Delta remains at the top.
Each year Scott McCartney, an airline columnist for the Wall Street Journal, compiles a ranking of “best and worst” airlines in the USA. I like the methodology of his rankings, which include:
- On-Time Arrivals
- Cancelled Flights
- Extreme Delays
- 2-Hour Tarmac Delays
- Mishandled Baggage
- Involuntary Bumping
The dates comes from Global Eagle’s masFlight Analytics Platform. These figures include regional subsidiary flights as well.
Thus, we are not talking about subjective scores like onboard comfort or service. We are not even talking about quantifiable amenities like onboard wi-fi, where speeds can vary greatly by flight and carrier. Instead, we are simply talking about six easily quantifiable statistics that provide a great basis upon which to compare airlines.
The airlines included in the rankings are:
Hawaiian Airlines is not on the list because its geographic location and unique climate conditions make it an outlier.
A Good Year for Spirit Airlines
In 2018, Spirit Airlines rose to number four on the overall list, just behind Delta, Alaska, and Southwest. Spirit was #3 in on-time arrivals, #2 in fewest cancelled flights, #4 in fewest extreme delays, and #1 in fewest mishandled baggage. That is an impressive turn-around from 2016 and 2017, where Spirit was ranked second to last.
You can read the full article here, but here are overall rankings:
5. JetBlue / United (tied)
5. JetBlue / United (tied)
The results are not surprising. Overall operational performance in 2018 slipped versus 2017, in part thanks to bad weather. On-time arrivals rate dipped from 79.6% to 78.9%. Furthermore, about 5,000 more flights were cancelled in 2018 than 2019. But 2018 marked fewer bumps and fewer lost bags.
Delta’s Investments Lead to Better Operational Performance
As I wrote about earlier this month, United was quite pleased to finish in the middle of the pack, calling its operational performance, particularly its “controllable” cancellation rate, the best in company history.
Meanwhile, Delta went 143 days without a single cancellation. For the year, Delta cancelled only 55 flights due to maintenance problems. Compare that to 2010, when the carrier expreicned over 5,000 maintenance cancellations!
Why Does Delta continue to perform so well? Part of it is simply its investment in tools to combat delays and cancellations.
Delta spent more than $20 million last year to buy a dozen additional deicing trucks in Atlanta and build more deicing pads where airplanes get sprayed with chemicals that are collected in drains. That reduced cancellations and delays.
American blames its poor showing on weather and the US Airways merger…five years later.
Frontier Airlines, which finished at the bottom of the list, blames its poor showing on a prolonged contract dispute with pilots. With that issue now resolved, the carrier expects better numbers in 2019.
Spirit Airlines was the only surprise on the list. The carrier deserves great accolades for greatly improving its operational performance in 2018. But that won’t get me to fly the budget carrier anytime soon…