Airlines around the globe are restarting their operations and trying to leave COVID behind. So we wanted to know the details and analyzed the operational performance of 12 leading airlines from March to May 2021. So here’s the comprehensive airline benchmark!

Airline Benchmark: How Lufthansa and others are flying out of the crisis!

It seems like the airline industry is slowly leaving the pandemic behind. At least there have been many promising signs during the last months. And although Europe, Middle East, and South America are some steps behind Asia and North America, the summer traffic signs have turned green for many airlines.

However, we wanted to know the details about how airlines have performed the last months. Therefore we selected twelve of the world’s biggest airlines and analyzed their operations. In that context, we looked at on-time performance, the number of cancellations, and the number of flights from March to May 2021. Here’s what’s contained in the blog post in detail:

Airline Benchmark Overview — Number of Flights

When looking at the number of flights, American Airlines easily outperforms all other airlines each month. Even compared to the second-largest airline, Delta, American Airlines operates roughly 25% more flights.

AirlineMarchAprilMay
American Airlines133,329140,317156,662
Air France14,65912,47918,108
Delta Air Lines112,308113,085122,437
Emirates5,7215,7485,248
Ryanair3,6488,35712,118
LATAM18,24114,07717,153
Lufthansa8,23310,59012,688
China Eastern63,85965,39367,993
All Nippon Airways19,36722,40120,365
Qatar Airways10,9259,83710,072
United Airlines88,61486,03093,200
Southwest82,26682,13489,307
Airline Benchmark Overview — Number of Flights

Airline Benchmark Overview — On-Time Performance

From an overall point of view, there’s no clear trend regarding airlines’ on-time performance. However, among the top 12 airlines, China Eastern stands out with an abysmal on-time performance. Moreover, China Eastern’s on-time performance sharply drops from 75.5% in March to 70% in April and even 62% in May 2021.

Here are the detailed results — the shown values represent percentages.

AirlineMarchAprilMay
American Airlines89.088.884.9
Air France80.985.085.3
Delta Air Lines92.892.291.1
Emirates92.890.293.7
Ryanair93.094.293.6
LATAM94.494.692.5
Lufthansa85.688.986.7
China Eastern Airlines75.570.362.6
All Nippon Airways96.197.095.2
Qatar Airways81.177.384.1
United Airlines87.990.087.6
Southwest85.087.180.0
Airline Benchmark Overview — On-Time Performance

Airline Benchmark Overview — Cancellations

From an overall point of view, it seems that the number of cancellations has decreased since March 2021. Nevertheless, few airlines stand out with a high number of flight cancellations. Similar top on-time performance, China Eastern is one of them. With 4.5% canceled flights in March and even 6.8% in May, China Eastern shows one of the highest cancellations rates on this list. Nevertheless, Air France has an even worse overall performance and shows the highest cancellation rate in March (9.8%). Qatar Airways and LATAM also have quite high cancellation rates.

Here are the detailed results — the shown values represent percentages.

AirlineMarchAprilMay
American Airlines0.70.61.1
Air France9.84.83.4
Delta Air Lines0.20.30.1
Emirates0.00.00.0
Ryanair0.40.80.3
LATAM2.82.42.6
Lufthansa0.20.20.6
China Eastern Airlines4.52.26.8
All Nippon Airways0.50.20.4
Qatar Airways1.71.91.6
United Airlines2.70.30.4
Southwest2.30.50.3
Airline Benchmark Overview — Cancellations

Airline Details

American Airlines

American Airlines recorded a steady decrease in terms of on-time performance from 89% in March to 84.9% in May. However, at the same time, American Airlines increased the number of flights by almost 25,000 — from 133,000 to 156,000. Cancellation rates were stable at ~1%.

Airline Benchmark: American Airlines, OTP & Cancellations
American Airlines, OTP & Cancellations
Airline Benchmark: American Airlines, Number of Flights
American Airlines, Number of Flights

Air France

Air France seems to have some issues with restarting the operations after COVID-19. Although the on-time performance is acceptable (80% – 85%), Air France had to cancel many flights each month. For example, in March, Air France canceled almost 1 out of 10. Fortunately, the airline reduced the cancellation rate to 4.8% (April) and 3.4% (March). Nonetheless, April and May’s figures are still way too high.

Air France had to manage a decrease in April regarding the number of flights but is now back on track with solid growth in May.

Airline Benchmark: Air France, OTP & Cancellations
Air France, OTP & Cancellations
Airline Benchmark: Air France, Number of Flights
Air France, Number of Flights

Delta Air Lines

From our perspective, Delta Air Lines is one of the top performers of this airline benchmark. Delta operates an enormous amount of flights of more than 100,000. Moreover, the number of flights grew by 10% between March and May. At the same time, Delta maintained an excellent on-time performance of more than 90% each month. On top of that, the cancellation was very low (0.3% – 0.1%).

Airline Benchmark: Delta Air Lines, OTP & Cancellations
Delta Air Lines, OTP & Cancellations
Airline Benchmark: Delta Air Lines, Number of Flights
Delta Air Lines, Number of Flights

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Emirates

Regarding the number of flights, Emirates represents an airline that is still far away from its pre-COVID strength. Moreover, the number of even decreased during the last three months. For example, in May 2021, Emirates operated only 5,200 flights. At the same time, Emirates maintained a high level of on-time performance with 92.8% in March, 90.2% in April, and 93.7% in May 2021. Moreover, Emirates shows the best result in cancellations: The carrier did not cancel a single flight during the last three months.

Airline Benchmark: Emirates, OTP & Cancellations
Emirates, OTP & Cancellations
Airline Benchmark: Emirates, Number of Flights
Emirates, Number of Flights

Ryanair

When looking at Ryanair’s flight growth, you get an explanation of why the value of this airline is massively growing. Ryanair has constantly grown its flights from 3,600 in March to 8,300 in April and 12,100 in May. At the same time, the low-cost airline operated an outstanding on-time performance above 93% in each of the analyzed months. Moreover, cancellation rates have also been meager, with 0.4% in March, 0.8% in April, and 0.3% in May.

Airline Benchmark: Ryanair, OTP & Cancellations
Ryanair, OTP & Cancellations
Airline Benchmark: Ryanair, Number of Flights
Ryanair, Number of Flights

LATAM Group

It seems that LATAM faced some severe issues in April since the number of flights drops by 4,000 at that time. However, LATAM is on its way back in May and already added more than 3,000 flights compared to April. The on-time performance of the South American airline group has been outstanding during the entire period (92% – 94%). Nevertheless, LATAM has a very high cancellation rate: 2.8% in March, 2.4% in April, and 2.6% in May.

Airline Benchmark: LATAM, OTP & Cancellations
LATAM, OTP & Cancellations
Airline Benchmark: LATAM, Number of Flights
LATAM, Number of Flights

Lufthansa

Similar to Ryanair, Lufthansa seems to be on its way out of the crisis. Of course, there’s still a long way to go, but figures look promising. Lufthansa constantly increased flights from 8,200 in March to 10,600 in April and 12,700 in May. Unfortunately, the on-time performance of the German carrier has been the only average over that period with ~87%. In terms of cancellations, Lufthansa performed very solid with rates of 0.2% and 0.6%.

Airline Benchmark: Lufthansa, OTP & Cancellations
Lufthansa, OTP & Cancellations
Airline Benchmark: Lufthansas, Number of Flights
Lufthansas, Number of Flights

All Nippon Airways

Japan’s All Nippon Airways showed an extraordinary on-time performance during the entire period. With punctuality of 96.1% in March, 97% in April, and 95.2% in May, the airline is one of the world’s most punctual. All Nippon Airways also performed very well in cancellation, with values of 0.5% and below. However, the Japanese carrier had to face a bounce-back in terms of flights in May. Therefore, it will be interesting to see how the next months develop.

Airline Benchmark: ANA, OTP & Cancellations
ANA, OTP & Cancellations
Airline Benchmark: ANA, Number of Flights
ANA, Number of Flights

China Eastern Airlines

China Eastern is one of the biggest airlines at the moment. Moreover, the number of flights is much higher than European flag carriers. However, the Chinese airline shows devastating results in terms of on-time performance and cancellations. The on-time performance dropped from an inferior value of 75% in March to an even poorer of 62.6% in May. At the same time, the airline had to cancel 4.5% of flights in March, 2.2% in April, and even 6.8% in May.

Airline Benchmark: China Eastern Airlines, OTP & Cancellations
China Eastern Airlines, OTP & Cancellations
Airline Benchmark: China Eastern Airlines, Number of Flights
China Eastern Airlines, Number of Flights

Qatar Airways

Although Qatar Airways performs almost twice as many flights as its competitor from Dubai, the airlines haven’t recovered yet. The number of flights even fell from 10,900 in March to 9,800 in April and 10,000 in May. At the same time, on-time performance has been below average the entire period, whereas cancellation rates have been very high (1.6% – 1.9%).

Airline Benchmark: Qatar Airways, OTP & Cancellations
Qatar Airways, OTP & Cancellations
Airline Benchmark: Qatar Airways, Number of Flights
Qatar Airways, Number of Flights

United Airlines

United Airlines is on its way back to operating more than 100,000 flights. The U.S. carrier already reached 93,200 in May. The on-time performance during the analyzed period was quite ok, with values of 88% – 90%. Moreover, except in March (2.7%), the cancellation rate has been shallow (03.% and 0.4%).

Airline Benchmark: United Airlines, OTP & Cancellations
United Airlines, OTP & Cancellations
Airline Benchmark: United Airlines, Number of Flights
United Airlines, Number of Flights

Southwest Airlines

Similar to United, Southwest is also on its way back to 100,000 monthly flights. The U.S. carrier was already close to 90,000 in May. Same accounts for the cancellation rate. Whereas March wasn’t a good month with 2.3% canceled flights, Southwest performed very well in April and May (0.5% and 0.3%).

Airline Benchmark: Southwest, OTP & Cancellations
Southwest, OTP & Cancellations
Airline Benchmark: United Airlines, Number of Flights
United Airlines, Number of Flights

Airline Benchmark — What’s Your Opinion?

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

Data Source & Explanation: All information shown in this blog post is based on OAG data.

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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.

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