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Most Reliable Airlines? The U.S. Carriers with Fewest Cancellations and Delays

The 10 largest U.S. airlines canceled just 1.29% of flights last year, according to final figures for 2023 released by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The government notes the number was significantly lower than 2022’s cancellation rate of 2.71%—and, in fact, 2023’s number of flight cancellations was the “lowest in over a decade,” per the Transportation Department’s announcement. 

On-time performance improved, too, with the 10 biggest U.S. airlines managing to get 78.34% of flights to their destinations on schedule in 2023, compared with 76.72% in 2022.

Course, that still means more than 1 in 5 flights are delayed. But the federal government, seizing victory where it can, declares that these numbers indicate that “airline service quality generally improved” last year. 

Aviation consumer expert and Frommer’s contributor William McGee took a less rosy view in his own recent state-of-the-skies assessment here at Frommer’s, providing a prescription for what ails the airline industry in the areas of competition (too little), prices (too high), and passenger rights (too few). 

But hey, at least the major carriers did a better job of sticking to schedules last year. Maybe the recent spate of hiked-up baggage fees for checked luggage was a way of congratulating themselves. 

U.S. airlines with the fewest cancellations in 2023:

  • 1. Allegiant Air (0.68% of flights canceled)
  • 2. Alaska Airlines (0.74%)
  • 3. Southwest Airlines (1%)
  • 4. American Airlines (1.17%)
  • 5. Delta Air Lines (1.22%)


All of those carriers managed to maintain a cancellation rate below the overall average of 1.29%. The following five exceeded it, meaning they canceled flights at a higher rate than their competitors.

U.S. airlines with the most cancellations in 2023:

  • 1. Frontier Airlines (2.13% of flights canceled)
  • 2. JetBlue (2.1%)
  • 3. United Airlines (1.7%)
  • 4. Spirit Airlines (1.7%)
  • 5. Hawaiian Airlines (1.3%)


On the delays front, four airlines bested the year’s overall rate of on-time arrival (78.34%), while six had worse delays than the average. Of those, five carriers inconvenienced passengers more than a quarter of the time—or, in the case of delays champ Frontier, a third of the time

U.S. airlines with the best on-time performance in 2023:

  • 1. Delta Air Lines (83.52% on-time arrivals)
  • 2. Alaska Airlines (81.06%)
  • 3. American Airlines (78.88%)
  • 4. United Airlines (78.47%)

U.S. airlines with the worst on-time performance in 2023:

  • 1. Frontier Airlines (66.99% on-time arrivals)
  • 2. JetBlue (67.08%)
  • 3. Spirit Airlines (69.51%)
  • 4. Allegiant Air (73.37%)
  • 5. Hawaiian Airlines (75.2%)
  • 6. Southwest Airlines (77.25%)


Note that Allegiant had the fewest cancellations yet one of the worst on-time performance rates. Maybe to Allegiant’s motto of “Together We Fly” the company should append an “Eventually.”

To see the government’s full Air Travel Consumer Report for 2023 (dated February 2024), go to the Department of Transportation website