Top 25 best and worst U.S. airports for delays

The Department of Transportation recently released on-time flight performance data for all of 2013, and compiled the raw data to assess the nation’s best and worst airports for on-time performance. We used on-time arrival rates as our metric – both for arriving flights at an airport, as well incorporating how often flights that depart an airport ultimately arrive on-time.

The average on-time rate for U.S. flight arrivals in 2013 was 78%, but the worst airport had just a 59% on-time rate, while the best had a nearly 95% rate. The common culprit for the worst airports was fog, either at the airport itself or at the destination airport of many of its flights. They were also all airports served by only one major airline.

The best airports also tended to be small and 3 of the top 5 had their primary route heading to Salt Lake City, one of the most reliable hub airports in the country.

Among the very largest airports, Newark Liberty was the worst with just 71% of flights running on-time and none of the large hub airports cracked the Top 25 for best on-time performance. Hawaii was the best state for on-time performance, home to 4 of the Top 25 airports,  benefiting from good weather and lots of short reliable inter-island flights, though one of the most unreliable airlines in the nation, Go! Airlines, exclusively serves Hawaii.

The 25 Worst Airports for On-Time Arrivals in 2013

RankAirportArriving flights (% arriving on time)Departing flights (% arriving on time)Overall % arriving on timeAverage Delay (minutes)
1North Bend/Coos Bay OR: Southwest Oregon Regional60.257.658.929
2Worcester MA: Worcester Regional63.656.059.817
3Crescent City CA: Jack McNamara Field61.859.460.626
4Hancock/Houghton MI: Houghton County Memorial63.068.165.519
5Sioux City IA: Sioux Gateway/Col. Bud Day Field63.870.367.122
6Arcata/Eureka CA: Arcata69.466.467.921
7Waterloo IA: Waterloo Regional63.672.668.122
8Columbia MO: Columbia Regional69.967.368.619
9Watertown NY: Watertown International66.271.368.822
10Champaign/Urbana IL: University of Illinois/Willard64.673.569.021
11Trenton NJ: Trenton Mercer64.873.569.220
12Martha's Vineyard MA: Martha's Vineyard Airport76.962.069.518
13Modesto CA: Modesto City-County-Harry Sham Field70.169.369.718
14Chico CA: Chico Municipal68.071.569.821
15Redding CA: Redding Municipal68.970.869.920
16Aspen CO: Aspen Pitkin County Sardy Field68.072.670.316
17Muskegon MI: Muskegon County71.669.770.616
18Mammoth Lakes CA: Mammoth Lakes Airport78.662.770.713
19Newark NJ: Newark Liberty International70.471.470.919
20Chicago IL: Chicago O'Hare International73.569.271.418
21Medford OR: Rogue Valley International - Medford73.171.972.517
22Fayetteville AR: Northwest Arkansas Regional70.574.672.617
23Santa Fe NM: Santa Fe Municipal73.771.972.816
25Springfield MO: Springfield-Branson National71.174.772.918

Source: Department of Transportation TranStats

1. Southwest Oregon Regional, Oregon

Southwest Oregon Regional, on the Oregon Coast, has only one route served by a major airline,  with flights to and from San Francisco on United Express operated by Skywest. But the flights are chronically plagued, between congestion at San Francisco when fog sets in to stormy weather in Coos Bay, travelers here know to expect delays with just 59% of flights to and from the airport arriving on time. Delays averaged 29 minutes during 2013. With a 4 hour drive to Portland and 2 hours to Eugene, there aren’t a lot of options for Southwest Oregon residents.

2. Worcester Regional, Massachusetts

Like Southwest Oregon, Worcester Regional has only one major airline serving it, JetBlue, with flights to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando. It only started service in November, but it’s off to a shaky start with just 60% of flights to and from arriving on time and an average delay of 17 minutes. Persistent fog is a problem, with many flights diverting to nearby Boston Logan thanks to the airport’s unusual topography, situated several hundred feet above the surrounding area, allowing fog to form over its runway. Fortunately, there are three major airports (Boston, Providence, and Manchester) within a reasonable drive. And with the data only including November and December, numbers will likely improve in 2014 as the better weather of Spring and Summer gets counted.

3. Jack McNamara Field (Crescent City), California

Much like Southwest Oregon Regional, Crescent City’s airport is served only by United Express with flights operated by Skywest Airlines. 2 flights a day go to San Francisco, which often experiences delays due to fog and weather limiting arrival activity, with regional flights like this one getting lower priority. Another flight heads to Sacramento via Eureka, but is also hurt by San Francisco delays since the aircraft that serves that flight originates in San Francisco.  The average delayed flight in and out of Crescent City arrived 26 minutes late in 2013.

4. Houghton County Airport, Michigan

Situated on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Houghton, Michigan was named one of the 100 Best Small Towns in America, but it’s one of the worst for on-time air service. With daily flights via United Express operated by SkyWest to and from Chicago, just 65% of flights arrived on-time in 2013. The average delay was 19 minutes.

5. Sioux Gateway Airport, Iowa

With service solely from American Eagle thanks to the federal Essential Air Service program, Sioux City’s two daily flights each way to and from Chicago arrived on-time 67% of the time with a 22 minute average delay. While Sioux City residents love having service to Chicago, and are probably willing to put up with delays arriving home, they should plan connections carefully in Chicago to factor in the persistent delays. Fortunately, departing flights heading to Chicago arrived on time 70% of the time, a better record than flights coming into Sioux City which arrived on-time 64% of the time.

The 25 Best Airports for On-Time Arrivals, 2013

RankAirportArriving flights (% arriving on time)Departing flights (% arriving on time)Overall % arriving on timeAverage Delay (minutes)
1West Yellowstone MT: Yellowstone93.495.694.53.8
2Lewiston ID: Lewiston Nez Perce County91.693.792.63.4
3King Salmon AK: King Salmon Airport94.888.391.63.3
4Hilo HI: Hilo International91.691.591.55.8
5Butte MT: Bert Mooney90.589.690.15.0
6Bellingham WA: Bellingham International91.586.889.17.1
7Elko NV: Elko Regional87.989.188.56.1
8International Falls MN: Falls International88.987.588.26.6
9Flagstaff AZ: Flagstaff Pulliam87.287.887.54.6
10Cedar City UT: Cedar City Regional87.087.887.46.7
11Yuma AZ: Yuma MCAS/Yuma International87.187.787.46.6
12Helena MT: Helena Regional84.090.587.37.8
13Kahului HI: Kahului Airport86.987.687.28.0
14Lihue HI: Lihue Airport86.387.987.18.1
15El Centro CA: Imperial County87.586.687.05.5
16Kona HI: Kona International Airport at Keahole86.087.786.88.7
17Kalispell MT: Glacier Park International84.489.286.87.0
18Alpena MI: Alpena County Regional87.186.486.77.4
19Twin Falls ID: Joslin Field - Magic Valley Regional85.
20Santa Maria CA: Santa Maria Public/Capt. G. Allan Hancock Field86.886.586.66.1
21Long Beach CA: Long Beach Airport86.686.686.68.2
22Del Rio TX: Del Rio International83.489.786.68.1
23Inyokern CA: Inyokern Airport83.389.786.55.8
24Fairbanks AK: Fairbanks International85.487.486.47.1
25St. George UT: St George Municipal84.887.786.38.1

Source: Department of Transportation TranStats

1. Yellowstone Airport, Wyoming

With service from Delta Connection operated by SkyWest via Salt Lake City, Yellowstone Airport enjoys the best on-time rate in the United States with 95% of flights to and from arriving on-time in 2013. It has a special advantage though – flights only operate during the summer season from June 1st to September 30th, so they avoid the worst of the year’s weather on both sides.

2. Lewiston Nez Perce County, Idaho

Lewiston, in Northwest Idaho, enjoys relatively calm weather year round and air service to Salt Lake City, Boise, and Seattle from Alaska Airlines and Delta via SkyWest. 93% of flights arrived on-time to and from Lewiston, an enviable record.

3. King Salmon Airport, Alaska

On the banks of the Naknek River, King Salmon Airport has jet service from one airline – Alaska, with service to and from Anchorage. Alaska has a strong on-time record as a whole, and it’s no different at King Salmon with 92% of flights on-time in 2013.

4. Hilo Airport, Hawaii

With intra-island service from Hawaiian Airlines and Go! Airlines operated by Mesa, and United Airlines service to Los Angeles, Hilo enjoyed a nearly 92% on-time rate in 2013. Hawaiian Airlines, with the most flights, led the on-time record, but Go! Airlines performed poorly, with fewer than 70% of its flights on-time.

5. Bert Mooney Airport, Montana

With 2 flights each way to and from Salt Lake City on Delta Connection carrier SkyWest, Bert Mooney Airport in Butte, Montana enjoys reliable connections to the rest of the world. 90% of flights were on time and the average delay was just 5 minutes in 2013.

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