The Best/Worst Airports for Flight Delays and Cancellations

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Whether you love air travel or rank it among the most detestable of human experiences, we can probably all agree that delayed or cancelled flights totally blow. Airline SNAFUs can affect anyone — but according to the FlightStats On-Time Performance Report (June 1-30, 2013), you’re far more (and less) likely to encounter longer-than-planned layovers at certain airports.

The report names Beijing Capital International Airport as the world’s worst offender when it comes to issues with departing flights. An abysmal 81 percent of flights scheduled to leave the airport are delayed by at least 15 minutes, and more than 5 percent are cancelled. Perhaps this sloppy record can be forgiven by the mere fact that, with more than 81 million passengers served each year, Beijing Capital is the second busiest airport in the world. But consider that Hartfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest with 95 million annual visitors, recorded a nearly 70-percent on-time rate for departing flights, as well as a very impressive 1.19-percent cancellation rate.

All in all, Asian airports are a mixed bag when it comes to delayed and cancelled flights. Seven airports in Japan (Fukuoka, Haneda, Itami, Kansai, Nagoya, Sapporo, and Naha in Okinawa) reported on-time rates above 90 percent; other Asian international airports to record impressive numbers include Indira Gandhi (Delhi), Incheon (Seoul), Singapore Changi, and Taiwan Taoyuan (Taipei), as well as the underrated hub located on South Korea’s Jeju Island. On the other hand, the 21 busiest airports in China averaged together for a 38.3-percent on-time rate; only two, Hong Kong and Wuhan, reported more than 50 percent of flights that depart without delay or cancellation.

As far as Asian airlines are concerned, the best on-time rates belong to Air Busan (96.77 percent), J-Air (95.64 percent), Hokkaido (95.32 percent), and Thai AirAsia (94.35 percent); the worst belong to Xiamen (38.62 percent), Shanghai Airlines (47.59 percent), China West Air (47.7 percent), and Tianjin Airlines (51.98 percent).

European airports were also all over the map (pun intended), although the continental on-time average was more than 12 percentage points higher than Asia’s. Istanbul Atatürk International Airport claimed the worst on-time rate at 38.02 percent; more than 40 percent of all flights were 15 minutes late, though curiously, the airport reported zero cancellations. Barely 40 percent of all flights departing from Lisbon Portela leave on-time, while Orly and DeGaulle in Paris and Fiumicino in Rome failed to crack the 60-percent mark. But the real story of European airports is Moscow; the city’s three airports averaged for a 44-percent on-time rate, and none of them went above 50 percent. Meanwhile, Schiphol (Amsterdam), Eleftherios Venizelos (Athens), Kastrup (Copenhagen), Hamburg, Munich, Gardermoen (Oslo), and Vienna all recorded on-time rates above 80 percent.

For the most part, European carrier flights depart on-time; the continent’s 50 largest airlines notched an on-time average of 81 percent. Air Portugal, Vueling Airlines, UTair Aviation, Eurowings, Air Croatia, and Air France reported the most delays or cancellations. Meanwhile, Régional reported the worst cancellation rate among all airlines included in the global survey — nearly 8 percent.

How did North American airports fare? Well, according to FlightStats data, New York’s La Guardia International Airport was the continent’s worst airport for cancellations — a lousy 6.2 percent. But overall, American and Canadian airports ranked quite nicely (Mexican and Caribbean airports were not included in the survey); Chicago’s Midway International Airport reported the lowest on-time rate at 60.33 percent (O’Hare didn’t score much better), while the highest on-time rate in North America belongs to Honolulu International Airport with 86.29 percent (Vancouver, Salt Lake City, Portland, and Calgary also fared nicely).

No data was immediately available for airports in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, or several other regions of the world; for this reason, the numbers may be somewhat skewed. It’s also worth noting that several of the world’s busiest airports — including Indonesia’s Soerkana-Hatta (Jakarta) Dubai, Suvarnabhumi (Bangkok), and Kingsford Smith (Sydney) — were not included in the survey. It’s safe to assume that the survey was somewhat limited to professionals with international commutes, as opposed to recreational world travelers.

The bottom line: if you have an upcoming flight, be sure to bring a music player, book of crossword puzzles, or whatever you need to keep yourself busy for long periods of time — because delays and cancellations occur wherever you fly.

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