Feb 15, 2023 - News

SFO's on-time departure rate surpasses national average

Share of flights departing on time from <b style='text-decoration: underline; text-underline-position: under; color: #15a0ff;'>SFO</b> and  <b style='text-decoration: underline; text-underline-position: under; color: #858585;'>all U.S. airports</b>
Data: BTS; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

About 86% of domestic flights from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) departed on time in November 2022, according to the latest Bureau of Transportation Statistics data.

  • That's compared to the national rate of 81%.

The big picture: At the national level, airlines performed admirably throughout the fall of 2022, with on-time departure rates at or above 80% from September to 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%.

  • SFO, with its high passenger satisfaction score, ranked sixth at 86%.
  • 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 for that particular carrier nationwide.

  • 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.

Between the lines: If you do get stuck at SFO, be on the lookout for the Wag Brigade, the "unicorns of therapy animals."

The bottom line: 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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