Feb 15, 2023 - Economy

Airlines had excellent on-time performance last fall — then winter struck

Data: BTS; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

More than 4 out of every 5 U.S. domestic flights departed on time in November 2022, per the latest Bureau of Transportation Statistics data.

The big picture: Airlines performed admirably throughout the fall of 2022, with on-time departure rates at or above 80% between September and November.

Zoom in: Across the cities with Axios Local newsrooms, the Washington, D.C., area's Dulles International Airport had the best on-time performance in November 2022, at 88%.

  • Denver — where brutal storms tend to snarl wintertime operations — had the lowest, at 76%.

Yes, but: This dataset doesn't include last December's meltdown at Southwest Airlines, which led to thousands of cancellations and delays at that particular carrier.

  • Expect those delays to show up in the next data release, where they'll almost assuredly drag down the systemwide numbers.
  • "Let me be clear: We messed up," Southwest Airlines COO Andrew Watterson said during congressional testimony last week. "In hindsight, we did not have enough winter operational resilience."

Be smart: Because airlines' systems and routes are so interconnected, problems at one airport or in one region tend to cascade across the country.

  • Foul weather in, say, Chicago can mean delays in Houston because planes get stuck and can't make their next planned leg.

The bottom line: Generally speaking, on-time performance tends to dip in the summer (thanks to thunderstorms and the vacation rush) and winter (due to blizzards and holiday crowds), and improve in the spring and fall.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to remove a reference to the number of cities with Axios Local newsrooms.

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