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Dec 22

The Best Airline of 2015 is…

I generally plan my flights around schedule, cost and frequent flyer miles. But for the business traveler, the primary motivation is often reliability. And when it comes to the leader in that metric, no one is close to the leader.

Delta

I’m not a big fan of the changes that Delta has made to its frequent flyer program, but I can’t question the airline’s operations. In virtually every one of the DOT’s most important metrics, Delta comes out near the top. And while the below list, from Delta’s analyst day presentation, doesn’t take into account smaller carriers such as Hawaiian and Virgin, who also performed particularly well in the study, it leads the other network carriers and, frankly, it’s not even close (although an argument could be made for Alaska.

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Completion factor? Not only did Delta complete 99.6% of its flights, but it has also had 173 days so far this year when it didn’t cancel a single domestic flight. American, United and Southwest combined have had a total of 31. Maintenance cancellations in 2014 were 20% of what they were just three years earlier and look to be even lower in 2015.

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There are any number of reasons that Delta could be so far ahead of the rest of the industry in performance. They have worked to improve their maintenance functions. They have already completed a merger integration and can focus on operations. Or it could just be that they’re investing more in the product.

One reason I have heard that doesn’t hold water: Atlanta is a warm-weather hub, so there are fewer snow cancellations. That may be true, but not only is this one of the biggest carriers in the northeast but it also has hubs in Detroit, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City.

Bottom Line

Say what you will about the frequent flyer program, but the airline is doing a pretty good job of getting its planes where they need to go and when they need to be there. And there is something to be said for that.

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