Even in a pandemic, there were flight delays. These airlines fared best and worst

March 3, 2021, 12:45 AM UTC

Not surprisingly, the airline industry had its best year ever in terms of on-time performance in 2020. Of course, given there were 3 million fewer flights and just over one-third of the total number of passengers there would have been sans pandemic, that wasn’t quite as impressive.

A record 84.5% of flights were on time last year. But which airlines still had trouble getting to the gate on time?

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics has released its 2020 on-time performance report—and even with the lightened load, passengers on Allegiant Air saw some turbulence.

Allegiant posted the worst on-time arrival rates last year, with delays on 28.7% of its flights. JetBlue Airways was second-lowest, with delays on 17.9% of its flights, and American Airlines came in third for lateness, with 17.7% of its flights falling behind schedule.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Hawaiian Airlines Network was the most punctual, with flights arriving on time 87.5% of the time. Delta Air Lines was next at 87.2%. And Spirit Airlines was third at 86.6%.

All totaled, there were 55 flights last year that saw tarmac delays of more than three hours and six tarmac delays of over four hours. (Airlines must offer passengers the opportunity to deplane after three hours.)

While there were far fewer people on the planes, passenger complaints hit a record number last year. The Department of Transportation received 102,550 complaints, compared to a total of 15,342 in 2019. The vast majority of those, over 87%, were regarding refunds.

Somewhat ironically, even with fairly empty airports and planes, some of the most common headaches of travel didn’t disappear last year. The Department reports there were over four mishandled bags for every 1,000 that were checked (compared to 5.85 per 1,000 in 2019). And incredibly, airlines still bumped passengers off oversold flights. In 2020, carriers bumped passengers at a rate of 0.11 per 10,000, compared to a rate of 0.24 per 10,000 passengers in 2019.