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Travel Tip: The Truth About Airline On-Time Performance

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If your airline tells you your flight is on time, are they telling you the truth?

Well, not exactly.

It all comes down to how on-time performance is calculated—and the metrics can be intentionally misleading.

For example, an on-time departure is officially defined by whether or not your plane pushes back from the gate within 15 minutes of its scheduled departure.

As long as it’s within that window, the plane is considered on time—even if it’s on the runway for the next two hours. That’s crazy.

But starting next year, the U.S. Department of Transportation is finally going to give a more realistic rating.

For the first time, the DOT will begin counting flights operated by the smaller carriers and the airlines’ regional partners.

These account for more than half of all domestic flights in the U.S. So what’s going to happen?

You can almost guarantee that on-time performance for Delta, American, and United will dramatically plummet when the other flights are factored into the equation.

What’s the result? You’ll finally be able to realistically determine the true on-time performance of the flight you’re on before you ever make a reservation.

Remember, the DOT issues publicly admissible statistics so you can do your homework.

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