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Airlines Hit On-Time High in September while Scheduled, Operated Flights Decrease

The COVID-constrained 2020 summer air travel season wound down in September, ending three consecutive months of increases in the number of domestic flights scheduled and operated by U.S. airlines. The 342,771 flights operated in September represent a 13% drop from August, but are still well above the all-time low monthly low of 180,121 flights operated in May.

The data spelled good news for passengers in September as airlines notched a record-high on-time arrival rate of 92.9%.

Airlines retreat on scheduled flights partly seasonal, partly COVID-related

The 345,294 flights scheduled for September (down 13.4% from August) represent a 47.7% drop from September 2019. That’s a steeper year-over-year decline than the 44.5% in August yet slightly less steep than July’s 48.3% year-over-year drop.

Win-win for ticketed passengers with high on-time arrival, low cancellation rates

September’s 92.9% on-time arrival rate is up from August’s 91% and September 2019’s 84.1%. Airlines topping the on-time arrival list in September were Hawaiian (95.5%), Delta (95.1%), and Southwest (94.7%). You can now view arrival performance by date, airline, and originating and destination airports on our new Air Carrier Arrival Performance dashboard.

While September’s 0.7% flight cancellation rate was not a record, it was very close to the 2019-2020 low of 0.4% achieved in June of this year. Notably, Spirit Airlines canceled no flights at all in September for a 0.0% cancellation rate. Frontier (0.1%) and Delta (0.3%) also canceled relatively few flights.

Note: airlines can remove a flight from its schedule up until 7 days in advance of its planned departure without it being designated a cancellation; within 7 days of scheduled departure time, any flight removal is a canceled flight.

Explore the data

You can view and download an Excel workbook of flights operated, flights scheduled, flights canceled for "All Carriers" and for individual marketing carriers.

Updated: Wednesday, November 25, 2020

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