Whether you will be visiting the United States for business or pleasure, you don’t want to end up arriving late, waiting long hours for a connecting flight, and then having to deal with a connecting flight that’s not on time either. To help prevent this from happening, we will below examine the top airports in the United States in terms of both arriving and departing flights that are on time and pick a couple of winners.
How did we determine the best U.S. airports for international arrivals?
We scrutinized the most recent reports released by the US Department of Transportation and then drew up a list of the best airports for foreign arrivals based on on-time flights and delays.
To be fair to the smaller airports that do not get enough overseas flights to make a sensible comparison, we omitted airports that get fewer than 500 arriving flights during the average year.
Best U.S. airport in terms of the total percentage of flights that are on time
In our view, the most sensible way to interpret the data was first to calculate the total percentage of on-time flights for each airport. But picking a winner wasn’t as easy as that because OAK airport in Oakland, California, and DAL airport in Dallas jointly took the number one spot here with an overall percentage of 95.5% of flights being on time.
The next four airports were close on their heels: St. Louis (STL), Minneapolis (MSP), Washington D.C. (DCA), and Houston (HOU).
Nobody wants to arrive at or depart from an airport where most flights are not on time. That’s why, at this stage, you are probably curious about something else: Which airports notched up the lowest total percentage of on-time flights?
The airport that ended up at the bottom of the list regarding on-time flights was none other than ANC, perhaps better known as Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, which is of course located in Anchorage, Alaska. During the survey period, only 82.1% of flights that landed or departed from here were on-time. So whether you are on business or on your way to family or friends, don’t make time-sensitive travel plans if you will be arriving at or departing from this airport.
Top US airports in terms of on-time arrivals
If your flight arrives at the airport hours after the planned time, you will probably keep someone waiting, whether it’s a business associate, a friend, or a family member. That is why next, we will take a closer look at the top U.S. airports in terms of the percentage of incoming flights that arrive on time.
With an impressive record of 95.5% of incoming flights being on time, DAL airport in Dallas once again walked away as the winner. Not far behind, with 95.1% of incoming flights being on time, was OAK in Oakland. Chicago Midway International Airport or MDW, was only slightly behind in third position, with 94.8% of incoming flights being on time.
The number four and five spots were taken up by William P. Hobby Airport and St. Louis Lambert International Airport with 94.7% and 94.5% of incoming flights being on time.
Now for the reverse side of that coin. When we started looking for the U.S. airports with the worst on-time arrival records, we once again found Anchorage’s ANC airport right at the bottom of our list. When it comes to on-time arrivals, Ted Stevens International Airport was only able to notch up a success rate of 76.9%. That undoubtedly makes it one of the most challenging American airports to arrive at.
To put the percentages into perspective, it means that close to one out of four arriving flights here were either canceled or delayed during the period under review. Just one more reason why your schedule should preferably be very flexible if you plan to fly into this U.S. airport.
Best US airport in terms of on-time departures
If you will be arriving at a U.S. airport and you then have to catch a connecting flight to another location from there, the percentage of flights that depart on time can be a very important factor.
We were actually quite surprised to find out that Myrtle Beach International Airport has the highest percentage of on-time departing flights – an impressive 96%. The four runners-up were so close to each other that there is an argument to be made that they should all be jointly in second place.
At 95.9%, OAK (Oakland International Airport) was only 0.1% behind the leader. And ABQ (Albuquerque International Airport) was close behind at 95.6%. DCA (Ronald Reagan Washington International Airport) was similarly close at 95.5%, followed by MCI (Kansas City International Airport) at 95.4%,
Moving to the worst performers in this category, this time, it was not Anchorage’s ANC. It actually managed to beat the worst performer by a significant margin. The poorest performer in this category was EYW (Key West International Airport), which could only work a rather unimpressive 84.7% of on-time departures during the period under review. This means that if you are a business traveler or a tourist with a tight agenda, you should plan for possible flight cancellations and delays.
Best-performing US airport in terms of the total number of flights that are on time
We had to examine a large selection of flights to make this calculation. The clear winner was Atlanta’s ATL airport, with close to 41,760 flights that were on time during the period under review. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport took up the second place with 33,584 on-time flights. In third position came Denver’s DEN airport with 33,247, followed by Charlotte Douglas International Airport with 24,907 flights that were on time. In the number five spot was O’Hare International Airport with 23,324.
The airport that notched up the worst performance in terms of on-time flights during the period that was studied was Asheville, North Carolina’s AVL. This is a smaller airport, so the 892 flights that were on time here don’t tell the whole story. In terms of percentages, AVL delivered an on-time arrivals figure of 86.3%. The corresponding figure for on-time departures was 88.6%. If you will be arriving at or departing from this airport, and you are on a tight schedule, we recommend that you plan at least a day or two in advance.
And the winner is…
Before we announce the winner, we have another interesting point to share. Although DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport) came in second place in terms of the total number of flights that were on time, this airport also managed to produce the biggest number (4,172) of canceled or delayed flights. Considering that, it’s probably better to rely on percentages and not actual flight numbers when comparing airports.
The bottom line is that, with the highest total percentage of flights that were on time, including the highest percentage of arriving flights, Dallas Love Field Airport has an impeccable reputation.
They are, however, not immune to flight cancellations and delays. During the period under review, this airport ended up with around 343 canceled to delayed flights out of a total of 7,616. This is, nevertheless, a great performance because it still means that more than 95% of flights arrived and departed on time.