With many colleges finished for the school year, and the end in sight for younger students, it’s time to get those summer vacation travel plans in motion.
Last month, FORBES gave you the complete list of Best and Worst Airlines for 2015 summer vacation travel. But that list included a number of smaller and regional carriers, like Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines, that don’t fly to all of the United States.
So, to give you a more practical hand, we’ve drilled down to the six big airlines that the vast majority of Americans most likely will choose from for their summer trips.
With help from Arizona State University graduate student Rian Bosse, we pulled data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, and measured the airlines’ on-time arrival records during June, June and August of 2012, 2013 and 2014.
On-time arrival figures are the most accurate way to gauge how well an airlines’ operations run, since a late departure can be made up while the plane is en route.
How do the big airlines stack up?
In first place among the big carriers is Delta Air Lines. Over the past three years, 81.89 percent of its summer flights arrived on time. It’s the only major airline with an arrival record above 80 percent. Delta achieves that performance even though it flies in parts of the country with dicey summer weather, like the South and the East Coast.
In second place is US Airways. Although it’s now merged with American Airlines, you can still take a US Airways flight, and it operated independently the last three summers. If you want to arrive close to the time on your ticket, you’re better off on US Airways than its merger partner. Its summer on-time record is 79.69 percent.