After posting Tuesday’s rundown of Etihad’s poor on-time performance on flights to the US, I received a lot of questions about how others stacked up. Now I have some answers for you. In short, Etihad is by far the worst performer over the Atlantic, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only airline running a bad operation.
I went back into the masFlight database and pulled up some summary tables for a bunch of airlines. I even looked into smaller carriers but decided to focus on the biggest Transatlantic players since the small players didn’t really add much to the discussion. Then what I did was look at on-time performance for flights departing each airline’s hub to go over the Atlantic. Yes, this means US carriers have eastbound flights while the other carriers have westbound flights. But I think it’s more important to compare how an airline does leaving its own hub since that’s where it has the most tools available to impact its on-time performance.
The end result is a somewhat clear stratification with Middle East carriers performing the worst (except Qatar), European carriers in the middle, and US carriers performing the best. Go figure. Let’s just lay out the raw data and let you pick at it, shall we? (You might need your glasses.)
A few things to note in this chart.
- The blue shading of each airline name is meant to show which ones are Middle East carriers, which ones are European carriers, and which ones are US carriers.
- You’ll notice that there’s some yellow shading as well. That’s merely meant to point out that data isn’t very complete for some airlines. Turkish lags a bit, but it’s really Etihad and Qatar that have the least comprehensive data. Please keep that in mind when you look at this.
- The current sort is using the arrivals within 14 minutes of schedule metric (far right column).
- To make it easier to see, the worst performer in each category is in red while the best is in green.
So what does this tell us? I do find it interesting to see how many airlines are bad at getting their airplanes out exactly on-time. It’s no surprise that US Airways (followed by Delta) are the clear winners in this area. Both have hammered home the importance of getting out on time. Hopefully US Airways can transfer this belief over to American. Meanwhile the Middle East carriers, minus Qatar which does alright, are the worst. And Lufthansa is pretty bad too.
What’s equally interesting, however, is the jump in on-time performance when you include the 15 minute grace period. Lufthansa goes from having one of the worst performances to one of the best. Clearly it can’t get out right on-time, but most of the departure delays are very minor. Interestingly, American has the opposite problem. It gets a good jump with flights going on right on time. But if they don’t get out on time, they’ll likely take a more significant delay.
Take a look at Emirates and Turkish as well. Both those carriers don’t do well at getting out right on time, but like Lufthansa (though not as good), they get a lot out within 15 minutes. The difference in performance between them and the rest of the pack shrinks dramatically when using that 15 minute mark. In fact, it’s Etihad that becomes even more of an outlier at that point, with the spread between its performance and that of the rest of the carriers widening tremendously.
Let’s flip this and look at arrivals. As a reminder, this shows arrivals in the US for European and Middle East carriers but arrivals on the other side of the Pond for US carriers. Though we don’t have data for all of Etihad’s flights, the ones we do have aren’t often on time.
Once again, the US carriers do well here, but take a look at United. It only gets 65.6 percent of flights out within 15 minutes of schedule yet 69 percent arrive on time. That looks like a clear case of schedule padding to me. I know there was a lot of talk in the comments on the last post about how departure time doesn’t matter because you can pad the schedules. I disagree. While departure time matters less than arrival time for sure, you can’t simply discard it completely.
A quick look at Etihad does indeed show some schedule padding, but if you can’t even get 10 percent of your flights out within 15 minutes of departure, then you’re just not going to recover unless you do some insane padding. United and Etihad look to be the worst offenders, though with padding, United is able to get to a respectable level of on-time arrivals. Etihad is not.
Looking at the last column we can see how arrivals stack on based on the DOT standard of “on time” as being within 14 minutes of schedule. Etihad is still the worst by far. Emirates and Turkish aren’t good, though leaps and bounds ahead of Etihad. Air France and BA have issues as well, but it only improves from there.
What does all this mean? Well it’s pretty clear that the US carriers are running the best operations over the Atlantic these days while the Middle East carriers (except for Qatar) are firmly at the bottom of the list. That being said, Etihad is in a league of its own here, and not in a good way.