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This Is the Most Reliable Airline to Fly, New Data Shows

It's the most on-time airline for the 18th year running, according to DOT.

Traveling by air can be a serious hassle in the age of mass flight cancellations and delays, significantly exacerbated in recent years by staffing shortages brought on by pandemic. But even in challenging times for airlines—and the passengers who depend on them—some are stepping up to the plate to deliver a positive experience that gets you where you need to be on time.

The Department of Transportation's Office of Aviation Consumer Protection recently published the results of its Air Travel Consumer Report, designed to help travelers get information on the quality of services provided by airline carriers. According to the report, which analyzed flight data throughout 2021, these are the most punctual airlines to fly.

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Spirit Airlines

spirit airline plane landing

Avoided by some for its no-frills approach to flying, and beloved by others for its consistently low fares, Spirit Airlines comes in sixth on the list. The smaller carrier flew just 191,361 flights in 2020, with an average on-time percentage of 76.74. That's far fewer than the 135,102 flights it flew in 2020, when it had a relatively much higher on-time percentage of 86.61.

Spirit's ranking beats out the relatively less timely Frontier Airlines (seventh place); Southwest Airlines (eighth place); Jetblue Airways (ninth place); and Allegiant Air (10th place).

United Airlines

United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplane prepares for landing at Chicago O'Hare Interational Airport.

United Airlines and the branded codeshare partners in its network come in fifth on the list of the most on-time domestic carriers. In 2021, the United Airlines network flew 1,148,340 flights, with an average on-time percentage of just 79.81. That represents a major dip from United's 83.75 percent on-time rate when it flew just 885,351 total flights in 2020 under pandemic circumstances.

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American Airlines

An American Airlines plane on the runway

American Airlines comes in fourth on the list of most on-time domestic carriers. The airline and its codeshare partners flew the largest number of flights among any airline in the rankings: 1,674,371 flights in all in 2020, with an on-time percentage of 81.58. While this is substantially more flights than the 1,311,462 American flew the previous year, it represents a slowdown in performance: In 2020, 82.32 percent of American flights were on time.

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Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines sign and logo at the company headquarters, with space for text

Alaska Airlines and its codeshare partners came in third on the list, with an on-time rating of 83.17 percent across 359,458 total flights. This number marks a performance decline over the airline's 2020 on-time rate of 86.31 percent when it flew relatively fewer 282,967 flights earlier in the pandemic.

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Delta Air Lines

A Delta Air Lines plane on the runway at an airport

Delta ranks second to most timely on the list. In 2021 the airline and its partners flew a mighty schedule of 1,357,322 flights. Of those, 88.22 percent were on time. Impressively, that figure is even slightly better than Delta's 2020 performance when there were far fewer flights during the pandemic (1,066,908), and of those, 87.20 percent were on time.

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Hawaiian Airlines

hawaiian air

For regular travelers on Hawaiian Airlines, it might be no surprise that the carrier comes in as the most punctual airline across all domestic carriers on the list. That's because it's topped the list for 18 years in a row. And the most recent data shows that in 2021, Hawaiian even topped its own punctuality rate from the previous year. In 2020, Hawaiian was on time for 87.5 percent of its 45,504 flights. The most recent data shows the airline was on time for a whopping 90.14 percent of its 60,654 flights operated in 2021, making it the nations' most on-time airline—again. So… who's ready to book a trip to Hawaii?

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Alesandra Dubin
Alesandra Dubin is a lifestyle editor and writer based in Los Angeles. Read more
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