How to Avoid Flight Delays

Booking nonstop flights and checking the on-time performance can help keep your itinerary on track.
Josh Garber
By Josh Garber 
Updated

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Whether you’re flying for business, to see family and friends, or on vacation to a destination you’ve always dreamed about, a flight delay can get your trip off to a bad start. Heck, it can outright ruin it. While you may feel helpless in these situations, there are ways you can help mitigate delays from happening in the first place.

If you’re wondering how to avoid flight delays when you travel, here are four things you can try.

1. Book flights on airlines that have a history of being punctual

One way to avoid flight delays is to book flights on airlines that have a history of on-time departures. OAG tracks on-time performance for airlines every month and publishes an annual Punctuality League report that can help you book flights on airlines that are less likely to be delayed.

Below are the top 10 most punctual airlines in the U.S. according to OAG’s Punctuality League 2022 report:

Airline

On-time performance

Hawaiian Airlines

89.9%.

Delta Air Lines

88.4%.

American Airlines

85.1%.

United Airlines

83.5%.

Alaska Airlines

82.6%.

Southwest Airlines

81.2%.

Frontier Airlines

79.8%.

Spirit Airlines

79.4%.

Allegiant Air

75.4%.

JetBlue

73.4%.

Things look a little different when leaving the country. If you’re flying internationally, consider booking flights on the following airlines that rank high on punctuality according to OAG:

Researching an airline’s recent history of on-time performance and booking flights based on what you find, can help you avoid delays.

2. Use FlightAware to find out how often your flight is typically delayed

Another helpful way to avoid flight delays when you travel is to use FlightAware to see a history of when a particular flight has historically departed and landed. FlightAware is free to use and includes up to three months of flight history, although you also have the option of purchasing a subscription to see how a flight has performed over the prior five or eight months.

Here’s an example of how you can use FlightAware effectively to try to avoid a flight delay: Let’s say you wanted to book a flight from Amsterdam to Zurich and were considering booking Swiss Air Lines flight 725, which is scheduled to depart Amsterdam at 9:50 a.m. and land at 11:15 a.m. By using FlightAware to see the flight’s recent departure and arrival times, you can see that this might not be the best flight to book if you’re trying to avoid a delay as the flight often departed and arrived later than scheduled.

For this particular Swiss Air Lines flight, in the 12-day period listed there was only one flight that departed 20 minutes or less before the scheduled departure time, with two flights delayed more than one hour and one flight canceled.

A better option would be KLM flight 1957, which is scheduled to take off at 9:40 a.m. from Amsterdam and land in Zurich at 11:05 a.m. and has a recent history of leaving close to its scheduled departure time, according to FlightAware.

In the same 12-day period, KLM had seven flights depart 20 minutes or less from the scheduled departure time, making it the safer option if you want to avoid flight delays.

As you can see in the examples above, FlightAware can be an effective tool to help you book flights that depart on time.

3. Book nonstop flights

Another way to avoid flight delays is by booking nonstop flights whenever possible. The logic here is simple: having one flight booked means you only risk having one flight delayed, but if you book an itinerary with two flights to get to the same destination, either your first or second flight could be delayed.

Because of this, if your goal is to avoid flight delays you should look for the best nonstop flight options.

4. Book flights from airports that rank high on punctuality

If you can’t avoid a layover, you still help avoid flight delays by booking your connection through an airport that has a history of punctuality. Here’s a list of the most punctual U.S. airports from the OAG’s Punctuality League 2022 report:

Airport

On-time performance

Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

89.3%.

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.

88.8%.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

88.3%.

Myrtle Beach International Airport.

88.2%.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

88.1%.

Lihue Airport.

87.9%.

Philadelphia International Airport.

87.5%.

Norfolk International Airport.

87.4%.

Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport.

87.3%.

Pittsburgh International Airport.

87.2%.

Booking a flight with a layover in an airport that has a history of on-time performance is a great way to avoid flight delays.

Finals thoughts on avoiding delayed flights

While you can never guarantee that your flight will depart exactly when planned, there are steps you can take to help avoid flight delays including booking nonstop flights, booking flights on airlines (or through airports) that have a history of on-time departures and using FlightAware to see a specific flight’s recent history of on-time and delayed departures.


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