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Airlines with the Lowest Cancellation Rate

Why Book with an Airline that has a Low Cancellation Rate?

With millions of passengers planning their 2024 escapes, the airline you choose could make a big difference as to whether you have a stress-free break. When booking a trip away the last thing you want to hear is your flight has been cancelled by the airline. Before booking your flights it's always a good idea to do a bit of research on the airline. Although cancelled flights are sometimes unavoidable, you can still try and prevent this from flying with an airline with a low cancellation rate.

So how do you improve your odds of traveling on a flight that arrives in good time? And how have flight delays and cancellations become so prevalent? It's better to book the earliest flight of the day so that you avoid the aircraft arriving late from its previous destination as this can be a common cause as to why flights are cancelled or delayed.

Although it can be very inconvenient and frustrating if your flight does get cancelled by the airline do not worry as they will issue you a refund or rebook you onto another flight.

Let's find out which airlines have the lowest cancellation rates and which are slightly unreliable for being on time.

Women booking flights

Low-cost airlines with a low cancellation rate

Budget airlines are great for cheaper prices when planning a getaway but are they great for low cancellation rates?

We looked at statistics that captured the performance of US airlines between July 2022 to May 2023. In the US the two most reliable low-cost airlines were jetBlue and Southwest Airlines. JetBlue had an on-time percentage of 68.44% and a cancellation rate of 1.88%. Southwest however had an on-time percentage of 74.70% and a cancellation rate of 2.75%.

In the UK the low-cost airlines with the lowest cancellation rates were Jet2 and Ryanair. Jet2 has come a long way as they are a fairly new airline that came about in the early 2000s and now they are on the list of the UK's most reliable airlines. Jet2 has a low cancellation rate of 0.19%, which is surprisingly lower than British Airways, the UK national airline. In second place for low-cost airlines in the UK with the lowest cancellation rate is RyanAir with a percentage of 0.25%. This may come as a shock to some people as Ryanair doesn't get as much recognition as other airlines in the UK.

Jetblue aircraft taking off

Low-cost airlines with a high cancellation rate

WizzAir was the worst low-cost airline for flight delays and cancellations from UK airports for the second year in a row, new figures show. Wizz Air operates short-haul flights from UK airports including Birmingham, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Gatwick, Luton, Liverpool and Bristol. It's ranked last in the UK for punctuality. Compared to other EMEA airlines, WizzAir ranks 44th on average regarding cancelled flights. From a global point of view, it ranks 76th on average.

easyJet is another airline that has a reputation for cancelling flights. In 2020 when COVID hit, the airline cancelled over 50% of flights. EasyJet cancelled 1,700 flights during the peak holiday season last summer. The cancellations affected about 180,000 customers between July and September.

Airlines in the US with the most cancellations for 2023 are Frontier, Spirit and United Airlines. In the United States, Frontier Airlines had the most delayed flights.

couple waiting at the airport

Airlines with the lowest cancellation rate

1. Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic is one of the main carriers in the UK with an excellent reputation. Between 15th March 2024 and 15th May 2024 Virgin, the data shows 5% of flights were late and 1 flight was cancelled. Fans of Virgin Atlantic will be glad to know that, almost unbelievably, the airline didn't miss a single flight in June, managing to fulfil all of its 887 scheduled departures. On the odd occasion that Virgin cancels your flights, they are known for giving passengers a quick and easy solution, whether a refund or a rebooking. Overall they performed better than a number of their competing airlines.

2. Delta Airlines

Delta's on-time arrival rate is 82.61% and the percentage of cancelled flights last year was 1.02%. Delta is consistently recognized for excellence spanning passenger experience, customer service, operational performance, workplace culture and beyond. Due to their great reputation, they are known to be very reliable and punctual. Their outstanding operational performance, commitment to safety and premium customer service have earned them 2024 Airline of the Year by the aviation publication Air Transport World. Delta operates over 1.5 million flights per year, making it the most punctual airline in the US, which is a monumental achievement.

3. Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines had the lowest cancellation rate in the country with just 0.81 percent of flights not taking off. Alaska Airlines works hard to get passengers to their destination on time – with over 82% of flights arriving within 15 minutes of the scheduled time. Even though they are in the top ranks for on-time flights and lowest cancellations, they are still working to expand to dozens more routes which shows they are working hard for their passengers.

4. Jet2

Since travel restrictions were removed, the airline has also successfully carried thousands of people away on vacation, with a fraction of the number of cancellations suffered by customers of BA and easyJet. Jet2 cancelled flights are rare. The airline is a leader in the UK for this type of disruption and routinely has fewer than 1% of its flights cancelled. The news for delays isn't as good, although Jet2 remains above average compared to other UK airlines even with a much higher number of delays. Considering Jet2 is a low-cost airline and the industry is facing challenges, they are doing a great job at competing with other UK airlines.

5. Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines had the best cancellations record in the past three months, according to a ranking of 19 global, long-haul airlines. The country’s flag carrier cancelled just 0.1 per cent of its planned services between May and July, according to the data from the analytics company Cirium. Singapore Airlines remains the leading carrier in Southeast Asia with an OTP of 88.31%.

6. Oman Air

Oman Air has been named the most punctual airline in the Middle East and Africa for 2023, scoring an outstanding 92.5% On-Time Performance. Considering Oman Air is competing with Emirates and Qatar in the Middle East this airline is doing exceptionally well as Oman Air has a much lower cancellation rate compared to the others.

7. Saudia

Saudia, formerly known as Saudi Arabian Airlines, is the flag carrier for Saudi Arabia. The Jeddah-based airline achieved 81.29% OTA with a completion factor of 99.80% out of 174,256 flights. The SkyTeam airline alliance member operates flights to over 100 destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America; using its fleet of 156 aircraft.

8. Avianca 

Columbian flag carrier Avianca is the largest airline in the country, and the most punctual airline in the world. The second largest airline in South America, Avianca operates to 74 destinations with its fleet of 123 aircraft. Avianca achieved 85.73% OTA in 2023, with a flight completion factor of 99.08% out of 213,039 flights.

9. Iberia

Spain’s flag carrier Iberia operates flights to over 109 destinations in 39 countries, and a further 90 destinations through code-sharing agreements with other airlines using its fleet of 89 Airbus aircraft. Iberia, which merged with British Airways in 2011, recorded 84.38% OTA in 2023, with a flight completion factor of 98.69% out of 170,750 flights – making the Oneworld Alliance member the most punctual airline in Europe. Iberia has a good reputation for punctuality and a low cancellation rate making it a reliable airline.

10. American Airlines

US-based American Airlines recorded 80.61% OTA in 2023. One of the biggest airlines in the world in terms of revenue, the airline has recorded a flight completion factor of 98.93% out of 1,998,844 flights. American Airlines operates 6,800 flights per day to nearly 350 destinations in 48 countries – making it the airline that carries the most passengers per year. With more flights comes a higher probability of delays, so to rank 10th in the world is an impressive achievement for American Airlines.

plane arriving into the airport

Airlines with the highest cancellation rate

1. Frontier Airlines

Unfortunately, Frontier is at rock bottom on the list of most reliable airlines, next on the list are Spirit and United Airlines. In the United States, Frontier Airlines had the most delayed flights. Out of the 192,704 flights it operated in 2023, 59,630 or 30.94% were delayed. Another 3,378 flights or 1.75% were cancelled.

2. Spirit Airlines

Spirit is an ultra-low-cost airline and 28.95% of the 300,517 flights it operated in 2023 were delayed. Spirit, which is based in Miramar, Florida, has cancelled more than 3,600 flights this year, or 1.5% of its schedule. That is lower than the 2% cancellation rate at Frontier Airlines, a similar budget carrier, and rates for JetBlue Airways and United Airlines.

3. British Airways

It'll be little surprise that EasyJet and British Airways top the list for most cancellations overall in the UK. The two carriers have cancelled tens of thousands of flights between them already this year. According to aviation analysts OAG, British Airways (BA) has been the worst of the big five carriers for cancellations this summer.

4. EasyJet

EasyJet has axed an eye-watering 742 departures and BA 295 in the past month. They have faced intense criticism for last-minute cancellations at their respective London Gatwick Airport (LGW) and Heathrow Airport (LHR) bases. However, this isn't to say they aren't good airlines as their customer service ratings are still high. However, looking at the cancellations as a percentage of scheduled departures, easyJet, with 4.61%, has almost double the figure of BA (2.90%). This puts the low-cost carrier way out in front as the most unreliable airline in the U.K. in terms of flight numbers last month.

5. Air France

Air France also has a high cancellation rate. The airline had 4791 departures that occurred within 24 hours, with an on-time performance rate of 67.15% and 115 cancellations. Although Air France does not have the best reputation for punctuality they are still known for excellent customer service and have been recognised for refunding passengers for cancelled flights quickly.

6. Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines has an on-time performance of just 75.02% and a cancellation rate of 1.3%. It's also in the top 5 US airlines with the most cancellations. Hawaiian Airlines has a 1 in 77 chance your flight will be cancelled and a 98.7% chance it won't be cancelled.

women walking through the airport

Airports with a low cancellation rate

Malta International Airport

This airport is ranked one of the lowest for cancelling flights frequently. The number of cancelled departures is 0.41% and the number of delayed flights is 9.00%. With 90.59% on-time departures over the past year, Malta International Airport is the best airport in Europe in terms of punctuality.

Warsaw Chopin Airport- Poland

This airport comes second as the best on-time departures. The total number of cancelled flights is 0.56% and delayed departures is 12.7%. The Warsaw Chopin Airport in Poland ranks second on our list with 86.57% of on-time departures. It serviced nearly 18.5 million passengers in 2023, exceeding its goal of 15 million and coming just 2% short of its best-ever figures reported in 2019.

Stuttgart Airport- Germany

Despite being home to two of the worst airports in Europe for 2023, Germany also made it to the top 3 list of last year’s best ones. The Stuttgart Airport ranks third with 85.54% of all departures in 2023 being on time. Although it saw its fair share of staff strikes last year the airport bounced back to finish the year strong. Altogether cancelled and delayed departures come to 14.46%

A man holding a laptop looking up at a departure board


Airports with a high cancellation rate

Frankfurt Airport

Contrary to the perception of the German nation being always on time, Frankfurt’s International Airport ranks as the worst airport in Europe due to its poor punctuality. Only 39.27% of all departures from it in 2023 were on time. Moreover, Munich International Airport lands in the 7th place with 48.09% on-time departures.

London Stansted Airport

London Stansted Airport has a percentage of 0.47% cancelled departures and 57.34% delays therefore, out of the airports in the UK London Stansted is the least reliable for an on-time flight. This airport is always busy and serves over 27 million people per year.

Newark Liberty International Airport

According to the relevant data this airport frequently has flight cancellations and delays. This New Jersey airport had a total of 6,253 flights taken off the schedule last year. Both Newark (EWR) and LaGuardia (LGA) are at the bottom of the barrel for those expecting to get where they need to be in a timely fashion.

A person walking in an airport and dragging a suitcase behind them

Bottom line

If you've been educated as to what airline to fly with this summer in the hope of avoiding the carnage and cancellations, at least you now know it might not be the complete disaster you keep being told. Sure, it's not great, but it could be much, much worse.

While plenty of airlines (and airports) are struggling right now, if you're playing the odds game we'd be banking on Virgin Atlantic, Jet2, Delta or Alaska whose cancellation figures continue to beat the challenges that the industry currently faces.

We hope you have a clearer idea of which airlines are reliable and recommended so that you do not have to stress about cancellations or delays and can enjoy your trip away. If you have already made a booking with Alternative Airlines and are looking to cancel then please head over to our flight cancellation page or reach out to our customer service team.

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