If there is any truth to being “fashionably late,” then U.S. airlines and airports are increasingly in vogue. But for travelers who depend on their flights arriving or departing on time, frustration has never been greater. Delays in U.S. flights have reached their highest levels in over a decade, according to recent government reports.

Bottlenecks in the aviation system and late-arriving aircraft take top blame for the delays, along with weather issues and maintenance or crew problems.

Airlines’ on-time performance rate for June 2007 fell to 68.1% for arrivals, down from 72.8% the year before, according to the Air Travel Consumer Report , a monthly publication of the U.S. Department of Transportation’ Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings. Flights are considered “delayed” when they reach the gate fifteen minutes or more after their scheduled arrival time.

Of the nation’s major airports, Oakland International Airport earned the highest ranking for on-time arrivals for the first six months of 2007, with 80.41% of its flights arriving as scheduled. In last place, Newark’s Liberty International Airport reported an on-time arrival rate of 56.05%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

For on-time departures, Portland International Airport topped the list, with an 83.87% on-time departure rate, while Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport came in last place, with an on-time departure rate of 64.55%.

Most major airlines, including United, American, Northwest, Midwest, and Southwest Airlines provide flight status information on their respective web sites, a convenient tool for travellers and those dropping off or meeting passengers. In addition, several third-party web sites offer flight status information for most airlines; a few examples are listed in “More Resources” at the end of this article.

Top Five U.S. Airports for On-Time Flight Performance

It’s not all bad news … Some U.S. airports are reporting on-time performance rates above the norm.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the following airports reported the best on-time performance for the period January 1 – June 30, 2007.


  • Oakland, CA (OAK) 80.41%
  • Salt Lake City, UT (SLC) 80.09%
  • San Diego, CA (SAN) 78.77%
  • Chicago (Midway), IL (MDW) 77.69%
  • Los Angeles, CA (LAX) 77.66%


  • Portland, OR (PDX) 83.87%
  • Salt Lake City, UT (SLC) 83.50%
  • San Diego, CA (SAN) 83.25%
  • Los Angeles, CA (LAX) 80.75%
  • Oakland, CA (OAK) 80.62%