Ranking the best airports on punctuality.
As airlines continue to charge customers more while offering fewer services, at least the world's busiest airports are showing signs of improved performance. That's according to data published by FlightStats, an Oregon-based company in the US that tracks historical and real-time flight information for airports and airlines around the world.
For the second year in a row, Japan's Haneda Airport (HND) tops the list of the world's most on-time airports (an "on-time" flight is defined by the industry as being less than 15 minutes late). In fact, HND was far and away the leader for both on-time arrivals and departures, at 88.6 per cent and 94.3 per cent respectively. In both categories, no other major airport comes close to these percentages. But its sister airport, Narita International (NRT), needn't hang its head in shame. This year, NRT earns the third slot for welcoming 84.8 per cent of its flights promptly and sending off 87.1 per cent close to their estimated time of departure (ETD).
To compile this list, we considered the 50 busiest airports in the world as determined by Airports Council International (ACI). We also looked at each airport's arrival and departure statistics between August 1, 2008, and July 31, 2009, as supplied by FlightStats. Then we averaged the two numbers. In general, airport authorities place more emphasis on departures, which are more indicative of an airport's ground operations, according to David White, vice president of business development for FlightStats. But since passengers pay at least equal attention to timely arrivals, we incorporated both into our ranking.
As with last year's list, Asia's airports still dominate the list. Six of the top 10 spots are located there. However, it's not the same six airports from one year ago. Gone are Taipei's Taoyuan International Airport (TPE), which took the third slot last year, and Hong Kong International (HKG), last year's number five. It's important to note, however, that both TPE and HKG showed increased punctuality year-to-year, just not enough to crack the top 10.
Instead, Seoul's Incheon International Airport (ICN) rocketed up the list with a solid 84.8 per cent average. ICN is actually the best of this year's newcomers and just one of two top-ten airports with more on-time arrivals than on-time departures (86.8 per cent versus 82.8 per cent). If this report considered only arrivals, ICN would have taken the number-two slot.
It's not enough to welcome incoming flights in a timely fashion. Just ask officials at Manchester Airport, who landed 81 per cent of its inbound planes on time. But thanks to a dismal 58 per cent track record for on-time departures, MAN was knocked clear of the top ten.
Why such a strong showing for airports in Asia? It may be that they're newer—roughly 15 facilities have opened within the last 20 years (compared to only a handful in Europe and the United States). It's also the second busiest region in terms of global air traffic (behind the Middle East), with an average annual growth rate of nearly six percent between 2007 and 2011, according to projections from the industry trade organisation International Air Transport Association (IATA).
In the US there's reason to celebrate. American airports appear four times on this year's list. The best is Minnesota's Minneapolis St. Paul InternationalAirport (MSP), which tied with Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL) for the sixth spot. MSP put nearly 85 per cent of its planes in the air on time and welcomed nearly 83 per cent of flights within 15 minutes of their ETAs.
So what happened in Europe?
Last year's number nine, Germany's Franz Josef Strauss Airport (MUC), came the closest to cracking the top ten with admirable showings in both arrivals (81.8 per cent) and departures (79.6 per cent). And with an average of 79.8 per cent and 78.5 per cent respectively, Amsterdam and Paris followed close behind. Such numbers are nothing to be ashamed of, but they weren't enough to beat out George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), which slid ahead of Hong Kong for the tenth spot with an average of 82.29 per cent. To be fair, it doesn't get much closer than this—Hong Kong posted an average of 82.25 per cent. Incidentally, that's an improvement for HKG over last year's 79.7 per cent, but it wasn't enough.
But America's airport professionals shouldn't get cocky. At New Jersey's Newark International Airport (EWR), nearly 20 per cent of all arrivals and more than 13 per cent of departures were classified as excessively late. That is, they were delayed by 45 minutes or more. No other airport came close to this level of tardiness.