The airline industry is in a state of recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning in 2020 and extending through to 2022, lockdowns and travel restrictions were imposed by many governments, passenger numbers were a fraction of what they were prior to the pandemic, and many aircraft remained in storage in vast aircraft parking ‘lots.’
The air travel post-pandemic recovery began around the spring of 2022. And it was at this time that the industry began to realize the huge challenge it faced. As bookings began to recover, many airlines and airports were unable to respond quickly enough because they could not recruit sufficient staff to replace the staff lost during the pandemic, to meet operational demands.
At many airports in Europe, Asia-Pacific, and North America, passengers were faced with long queues, flight delays, and cancellations and this has clearly fed through into punctuality results. In response, some airports were forced to impose capacity restrictions in order to bring improved performance and service predictability.
Additionally, during 2022 some airlines across the world were still operating well below their pre-pandemic levels and so this is also a factor that has impacted punctuality in the sense that airlines operating below capacity can be considered as having an advantage over those airlines which have managed to claw their way back to, or near to, pre-pandemic operational levels.
Global travel data providers OAG and Cirium have carried out comprehensive analyses of global airline and airport punctuality for 2022 and have published a set of interesting league tables. In this article, I take an in-depth look at the two sets of results and show where and why the results differ.
What Is On-Time Performance (OTP)?
There’s no single industry-standard measure of OTP. However, the generally accepted standard is a 15-minute allowance in addition to both scheduled arrival and departure times. This ‘rule-of-thumb’ gives airlines and airports some small leeway to account for unforeseen events, perhaps outside of their control, and keeps the measure within a time period that might be regarded as generally accepted by the traveling public.
There’s also the issue of gate time and runway time. Punctuality is usually measured based on gate arrival and gate departure times – i.e. the flight’s block time. However, all aircraft need to maneuver between the gate and the runway. The time taken for this depends on the size and complexity of the airport and how busy the airport is.
However, some airlines have been accused of ‘padding schedules,’ where the time between the scheduled departure and the scheduled arrival is increased as a means of achieving higher OTP. On the other hand, airlines would say that this is a realistic way to provide schedule certainty where they operate to and from airports that are particularly congested, and taxiing between the runway and gate takes a considerable amount of time.
In practice, airlines must find the right balance between accurate scheduling and maximizing aircraft rotations and hence revenue generation.
OAG vs. Cirium: How Do Their Methodologies Differ?
The two main providers of airline and airport punctuality data are OAG and Cirium. They have slightly different definitions and methodologies and therefore have differing results. Let’s take a look at how OAG and Cirium define and measure airline and airport punctuality.
OAG’s definition of OTP is flights that arrive or depart within 15 minutes of their scheduled arrival or departure times. For departures, it’s pretty clear that this means the gate departure time. For arrivals, I understand that OAG uses the same measure as Cirium i.e. the gate arrival time.
Airport OTP is calculated based on departures and arrivals data, whereas airline OTP is calculated based only on arrivals data. Cancellations are included within OAG’s OTP calculations and are counted as late flights. OAG only analyses OTP at airports with at least 2.5 million departing seats, and airport OTP calculations are restricted to scheduled passenger flights only.
Flights where OAG does not have the required arrival time or confirmation that the flight was diverted or canceled, are not included in OAG’s OTP calculations for airlines or airports.
OAG analyzes all scheduled flights operated by affiliate and codeshare carriers on behalf of other airlines. In contrast, Cirium excludes codeshares but in its ‘Network’ analysis it does include flights that are marketed by the airline but are operated by a separate airline partner (but still excluding codeshares). Cirium’s ‘Mainline’ analysis only includes flights that are operated by a major airline and does not include airline partners.
Cirium uses the industry-accepted definition of on-time arrivals i.e. flights that arrive within 15 minutes of the scheduled arrival time. Cirium is very careful to avoid the use of runway arrival time as this can overstate performance as the difference between runway and gate arrival times can be anywhere between five and 30 minutes.
It uses the industry-accepted departure within 15 minutes of the scheduled gate departure time. Cirium only counts individual commercially operated flights and does not include codeshare flights in its analysis which seems right as a codeshare flight is operated by a completely different airline.
Cirium only calculates OTP for flights where they have the actual gate arrival or gate departure time information. When gate time data is not present for a flight then it is excluded from Cirium’s analysis, and they only publish OTP performance for an airline where they have gate arrival times for 85-95% of an airline’s scheduled flights. To qualify to be part of Cirium’s OTP Review, Cirium must have 80% of actual gate departure time data for airports.
Key Differences Between the OAG and Cirium Analysis
The key difference between the ways in which OAG and Cirium analyze airline OTP could be in the way they treat codeshare flights, with codeshares possibly included in OAG’s analysis, but definitely excluded from Cirium’s ‘Network’ and ‘Mainline’ analysis. Codeshare flight OTP can impact an airline’s OTP either positively or negatively depending on how punctual that codeshare partner airline is.
Cirium says its ‘Network’ analysis includes “flights that are marketed by the airline but are operated by a separate airline partner (excluding codeshares).” OAG says that “All scheduled flights operated by affiliate carriers on behalf of another carrier are included in the analysis.”
The World’s Most Punctual Airlines in 2022
With the definitions out of the way, let’s take a look at the actual airline performance data.
OAG’s top 10 most punctual airlines in 2022 are shown in the table below:
|Rank||Airline||Arrivals OTP, 2022||Cancellation Rate, 2022|
|6||All Nippon Airways||88.79%||1.36%|
Overall, Asian airlines performed best in OAG’s league table with seven Asian carriers appearing in the top 20 most punctual airlines, with an average flight frequency of 70% compared to 2019 levels.
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, in 2022 Garuda Indonesia was OAG’s most punctual global airline with an OTP of 95.6%. However, this performance was aided by the fact that they only operated only around a quarter of the flights that were operated in 2019.
According to OAG, European and North American airlines did not perform too well when it came to punctuality in 2022. The only US carrier in OAG’s top 20 was Delta Airlines (#17) and there were no major European carriers in the top 20. While the German low-cost airline Eurowings based at Dusseldorf Airport came in at an impressive third position, it had a relatively high cancellation rate of 3.5% in 2022.
OAG’s category winners for 2022 were as follows:
- Mega airline: All Nippon Airways
- Low cost carrier: Eurowings
- Asia Pacific airline: Garuda Indonesia
- European airline: Eurowings
- Latin American airline: Copa Airlines
- Middle East & African airline: Safair
- North American airline: Delta Airlines
For its 2022 analysis, Cirium distinguished between ‘mainline’ and ‘network’ airline operations with definitions as follows:
- Mainline: A system of flights that are operated by a major airline and does not include airline partners
- Network: A system of flights that are flown by a major airline and include the flights that are marketed by the airline but are operated by a separate airline partner (but excluding codeshares)
Cirium’s top 10 most punctual ‘Mainline’ airlines in 2022 are shown in the table below:
|Rank||Cirium Top 10||Arrivals OTP||Total Flights|
|2||All Nippon Airways||88.61%||162,370|
|5||Delta Air Lines||83.63%||1,004,684|
Cirium’s top 10 most punctual ‘Network’ airlines in 2022 are shown in the table below:
|Rank||Cirium Top 10||Arrivals OTP||Total Flights|
|1||All Nippon Airways||89.79%||278,600|
Cirium’s 2022 top OTP performers in the regions were as follows:
|North America||Delta Airlines (83.63%/83.95%)|
|Asia-Pacific||Thai AirAsia (91.56%)||All Nippon Airways (89.79%)|
|Middle East & Africa||Oman Air (91.38%)||Qatar Airways (78.23%)|
|Latin America||Azul Airlines (88.93%/88.37%)|
The winner of Cirium’s best low cost carrier in terms of OTP for 2022 was Japan’s StarFlyer (95.23%). In practice, StarFlyer is a full-service airline, though, and nothing like what most people imagine under the term ‘low cost carrier.’
OAG’s and Cirium’s Most Punctual Airlines of 2022 Compared
Only three airlines feature in both the OAG and Cirium top 10s – All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, and LATAM Airlines. OAG’s top 20 list also includes Azul Airlines, Avianca, Delta Airlines, Etihad, and Emirates which feature in the Cirium top 10.
So, whilst there are some major differences between the two lists, there is some commonality on which airlines perform best, and if an airline features in the OAG top 20 and the Cirium top 10, it’s a pretty safe bet that the airline operates with good punctuality.
The World’s Most Punctual Airports in 2022
Next, let’s take a look at airport performance.
OAG’s top 10 most punctual airports for 2022 are shown in the table below:
|Rank||Airport||Country||OTP (Departures)||Cancellation Rate|
Japan is known for its legendary efficiency and for public transportation systems that run to schedule. Japanese airports are no exception and they dominate the OAG top 20 airports punctuality list for 2022. There are no less than ten Japanese airports in the top 20 most punctual global airports. Japanese airports occupy the top four positions on the list, and seven of the top 10 most punctual airports were in Japan in 2022.
According to OAG, Itami Osaka International was the most punctual airport in the world in 2022 with 91.45% of flights arriving on time. The smaller Matsuyama Airport on Shikoku Island in southern Japan came a very close second with 91.44% of flights arriving on time. Many of Japan’s large airports are featured in OAG’s top 20 list, including Tokyo Haneda, Sapporo New Chitose, Fukuoka, and Okinawa Naha. Tokyo Narita and Osaka Kansai are notable for their absence.
Brazilian airports also feature strongly on OAG’s top 20 most punctual airports list, with three airports located there. The most punctual of these is Fortaleza International Airport at eighth position. There are also two South African airports in the OAG top 20; Durban King Shaka International in fifth place and Cape Town International in 16th position. There were no North American or European airports on OAG’s top 20 list.
There’s an argument to say that it’s easier for smaller regional airports to achieve better punctuality than the world’s major hub airports. So, OAG has stripped out the punctuality data for these small airports and has represented the data for the world’s top 20 busiest airports in terms of the number of flights in 2022.
According to OAG, Tokyo Haneda has the highest OTP of the 20 largest airports in the world (measured by the number of flights operated in 2022), with 88.06% of flights arriving on time. There is then a considerable gap between the next highest, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, with an OTP of 80.08% in 2022.
Fourteen of the top 20 largest airports are in the USA, reflecting the almost recovered nature of the US domestic market. OTP at the US airports in the large airports group ranges from Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson at 80.08% to Newark Liberty at 67.76%. Newark Liberty also has the highest rate of cancellations in 2022, with 4.66% of flights canceled, reflecting the difficult summer many airports across the world have faced this year as the industry struggles to find enough people to staff airports and airlines.
OTP at Europe’s biggest airports is considerably lower this year than in 2019, again down to the operational resourcing issues faced during the summer. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport has seen its OTP decline by nearly seven percentage points compared to 2019, whilst Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport is down by ten percentage points, and London Heathrow by nearly 14 percentage points.
OAG’s top airports for punctuality in 2022 by category were as follows:
- Mega airport: Tokyo Haneda Airport (88.06%)
- Asia- Pacific: Osaka Itami Airport (91.45%)
- Europe: Stuttgart Airport (84.20%)
- Latin America: Fortaleza International Airport (88.61%)
- Middle East & Africa: Durban King Shaka International Airport (89.73%)
- North America: Salt Lake City International Airport (83.59%)
Cirium’s top 10 most punctual airports for 2022 are shown in the table below:
|Rank||Airport||Country||OTP (Departures) 2022||Total Flights 2022|
|3||Salt Lake City||USA||83.87%||226,545|
In 2022, six out of Cirium’s top 10 most on-time global airports are from the US. This comes as no surprise; the North American region has been the quickest to recover with its high reliance on domestic traffic. However, the world’s leading airport for OTP for the second year running is Tokyo Haneda International Airport. In 2022, 90.33% of the airport’s flights departed on time. Three out of Cirium’s top 10 most on-time global airports are from the Asia-Pacific region.
Cirium’s second position goes to Kempegowda International Airport in Bangalore. This is a great result for this airport as it did not feature even in the Cirium’s top 20 for 2021. Also in India, Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport took the seventh position.
Similar to OAG’s findings, Japanese airports continue to perform very well when it comes to OTP. Japanese airports earned the coveted top position in all airport categories measured and presented by Cirium – Global, Large, Medium, and Small. The ‘Large’ Osaka Itami airport achieved an OTP of 94.06% in 2022, The ‘Medium’ Nagoya Chubu airport achieved 94.21%, and the ‘Small’ Miyazaki airport recorded 93.29% OTP.
OAG’s and Cirium’s Most Punctual Airports of 2022 Compared
If we compare OAG’s top 10 most punctual airports in 2022 with Cirium’s equivalent, we don’t see a lot of commonalities. OAG’s list is dominated by Japanese airports, both large and small, whereas Cirium’s list is dominated by large US airports. If we compare OAG’s top 20 Mega Airports punctuality league with Cirium’s top 20 Global Airports we start to see more convergence of results.
Cirium’s top 20 Global Airports list includes 13 US airports with Tokyo Haneda International Airport leading the pack. OAG’s top 20 Mega Airports list includes 14 US airports with Tokyo Haneda International Airport at the top of the list. The US airports featured in both lists are as follows:
- Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International Airport
- Seattle Tacoma International Airport
- Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport
- Charlotte Douglas International Airport
- Los Angeles International Airport
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport
- Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
Different ways of analyzing the same data will give different results. However, there are some similarities in the ways in which OAG and Cirium analyze OTP data and so there are some common themes arising from their analyses.
A clear standout is how well Japan is performing in both airline and airport punctuality, with All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines featuring highly in both sets of results, StarFlyer being recognized as the world’s most punctual low-cost carrier (although the choice of the term ‘low cost’ for the airline is questionable), and Tokyo Haneda International Airport topping both OAG’s Mega Airports and Cirium’s Global Airports punctuality lists.
With the pace of post-pandemic recovery running at different rates in different parts of the world, some airlines and some airports are yet to reach their pre-pandemic passenger levels, whereas other regions are almost back to 2019 levels. As such, the 2022 punctuality performance of some airlines and airports might be better than expected. It will be interesting to return to this topic in early 2024 and see whether the same airports and airlines that feature in the 2022 lists are performing equally well during 2023.