The U.S. airline industry is currently witnessing a strong rebound. However, with a growing number of flights, passengers, and baggage, the airlines’ operational quality gets back into the spotlight. We took a look at the quality of the operations of U.S. airlines in 2020 and provided you with the most comprehensive benchmark.

U.S. Airlines Operations Benchmark

After more than a year of travel restrictions and other COVID-related impacts, people are eager to travel —and especially— fly again. However, with more flights, more planes in the air, and crowded airports, operations quality is back on airlines’ radar. That’s why we thought it’s worth looking at 2020’s figures to see which airlines are in a good position to handle the growing traffic.

U.S. Airlines Benchmark — What we Looked at?

The quality of operations is defined by several aspects — and usually aspects that directly impact the passengers and their travel experience. With this benchmark we analyzed the following aspects of U.S. airlines’ operations:

  • On-Time Arrivals
  • Canceled Flights
  • Extreme Delays
  • Two-Hour Tarmac Delays
  • Mishandled Baggage
  • Involuntary Bumping
  • Complaints

U.S. Airlines Benchmark — Contents

Here’s an overview of this blog post’s content — in case you want to directly jump to a specific section.

U.S. Airlines Benchmark — Overall Results

Before we dive into the details of each operational area, here are the overall results of the U.S. airlines benchmark. For the first time, Southwest Airlines wins the gold medal as best U.S. airline when it comes to operations. Delta Air Lines, which was ranked first in 2018 and 2019, gets second this time. Alaska Airlines also loses one position compared to 2019 and ranks third.

Two of the “Big Three,” United Airlines and American Airlines, are again at the bottom of the list, ranking 8th and 9th. Moreover, jetBlue seems to be in descending channel and loses another position. Frontier Airlines improves its results and ranks sixth.

RankAirlineRank 2019Rank 2018
1Southwest Airlines33
2Delta Air Lines11
3Alaska Airlines22
4Spirit Airlines54
5Allegiant4
6Frontier Airlines78
7jetBlue65
8United Airlines86
9American Airlines97
U.S. Airlines Operational Benchmark Results
Southwest Airlines — U.S. airline benchmark
Southwest Airlines — #1 U.S. Airline Operations Benchmark

U.S. Airlines Benchmark — Detailed Results

On-Time Arrivals

When looking at on-time arrivals, the U.S. airlines benchmark shows a slightly different picture than the overall results. United and American Airlines rank slightly better, whereas Allegiant and jetBlue are at the bottom. Southwest, the overall number one, ranks only fourth when it comes to on-time arrivals.

RankAirline
1Delta Air Lines
2Alaska Airlines
3Spirit Airlines
4Southwest Airlines
5Frontier Airlines
6United Airlines
7American Airlines
8jetBlue
9Allegiant
U.S. Airlines Operational Benchmark — On-time arrivals

Canceled Flights Details

Let’s move on to a very sensitive part of the U.S. airlines benchmark: Canceled flights. Similar to its performance in the area of on-time arrivals, Allegiant again ranks last when it comes to the number of canceled flights. However, even more, interesting to see Southwest at position eight. Having excellent results in almost all other aspects, flight cancellations seem to be the biggest challenge for Southwest Airlines. Alaska Airlines shows excellent results again and ranks 2nd, slightly behind Spirit Airlines.

RankAirline
1Spirit Airlines
2Alaska Airlines
3Frontier Airlines
4Delta Air Lines
5jetBlue
6United Airlines
7American Airlines
8Southwest Airlines
9Allegiant
U.S. Airlines Operational Benchmark — Canceled Flights

Extreme Delays Details

Besides cancellations, extreme delays represent another irregularity that massively impacts passengers’ travel experience. When looking at the benchmark of U.S. airlines, Southwest shows an outstanding performance in this category, followed by Alaska Airlines and Delta. Similar to cancelations, jetBlue and Allegiant are the worst performers.

RankAirline
1Southwest Airlines
2Alaska Airlines
3Delta Air Lines
4Spirit Airlines
5Frontier Airlines
6United Airlines
7American Airlines
8jetBlue
9Allegiant
U.S. Airlines Operational Benchmark — Extreme Delays

Two-Hour Tarmac Delays Details

The aspect of Two-Hour Tarmac Delays seems to be the biggest challenge for Delta Air Lines when looking at benchmark data. Although Delta ranks very well in almost all other areas, they are at the bottom of the list in this field. On the contrary, Allegiant: As shown, the airline performs worst concerning on-time arrivals, extreme delays, and canceled flights — however, the carrier shows an outstanding performance in this category.

RankAirline
1Southwest Airlines
2Allegiant
3Frontier Airlines
4Spirit Airlines
5Alaska Airlines
6American Airlines
7United Airlines
8jetBlue
9Delta Air Lines
U.S. Airlines Operational Benchmark — 2 Hours Tarmac Delays

Mishandled Baggage Details

Mishandled baggage represents the next part of the operations benchmark. Similar to tarmac delays, Allegiant and Southwest Airlines are the top-performers of all U.S. airlines. United Airlines and American Airlines are at the bottom of the list, showing huge deficits when it comes to mishandled baggage.

RankAirline
1Allegiant
2Southwest Airlines
3Frontier Airlines
4Delta Air Lines
5jetBlue
6Spirit Airlines
7Alaska Airlines
8United Airlines
9American Airlines
U.S. Airlines Operational Benchmark — Mishandled Baggage
Allegiant tops the ranking for mishandled baggages — By Tomás Del Coro

Involuntary Bumping Details

With the next part of the U.S. airlines operations benchmark, we take a detailed look into involuntary bumping. Delta Air Lines tops this part of the benchmark followed by Allegiant. Moreover, it is the only area where United Airlines ranks better than position six. American Airlines, once again, can be found at the bottom of the list.

RankAirline
1Delta Air Lines
2Allegiant
3United Airlines
4jetBlue
5Southwest Airlines
6Spirit Airlines
7Alaska Airlines
8Frontier Airlines
9American Airlines
U.S. Airlines Operational Benchmark — Involuntary Bumping
U.S. Airline Benchmark
Delta shows best results in terms of involuntary bumping

Complaints Details

With the last part of the U.S. airlines operations benchmark, we take a look at complaint handling. Southwest, Delta and Allegiant are the top performers in this field, whereas Frontier seems to have bigger issues when it comes to complaints. For American Airlines, this field represents their best results of the benchmark.

RankAirline
1Southwest Airlines
2Delta Air Lines
3Allegiant
4Alaska Airlines
5American Airlines
6jetBlue
7Spirit Airlines
8United Airlines
9Frontier Airlines
U.S. Airlines Operational Benchmark — Complaints

U.S. Airlines Benchmark Details

Finally, here’s the complete overview of the U.S. airlines benchmark containing all of the discussed areas.

AirlineOverallOn-time ArrivalsCanceled FlightsExtreme Delays2-Hour Tarmac DelayMishandled BaggageInvoluntary BumpingComplaints
Southwest14811251
Delta21439412
Alaska32225774
Spirit43144667
Allegiant59992123
Frontier65353389
jetBlue78588546
United86667838
American97776995
U.S. Airlines Benchmark Details

What’s Your Opinion?

We are always happy to receive your feedback. Just leave a comment below or get in touch with the author on social media channels.

Data Source: All data shown on this blog post are based on internal sources or the Wall Street Journal.

Previous

The World’s 50 Biggest Airlines by Fleet Size (After Corona)

Next

10 Benefits Every Airline Gets From Real-Time Dashboards!

CEO

Benjamin is a content-maniac, music-lover, aviation-enthusiast, and CEO of Information Design (in this order). His daily business revolves around pioneering solutions to change the way airlines, airports, and aviators use information. His visions are based on expertise gained in more than 15 years in the industry and working with renowned airlines + airports worldwide.