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Air operations, Expert view, On-Time Performance

Celebrating the airline industry’s operational performance and 2024 industry outlook 

January 18, 2024

As we review the year 2023 and look forward to 2024, it’s clear that airlines are not just surviving but thriving in many aspects. 


By Jeremy Bowen, CEO at Cirium

The airline industry has emerged from the shadows of the pandemic, showing signs of robust recovery and resilience. As we review the year 2023 and look forward to 2024, it’s clear that the sector is not just surviving but thriving in many aspects. 

The 2023 On-Time Performance Review showcases the airline industry’s performance rebound. It’s a pleasure for Cirium to acknowledge the industry leaders of this resurgence.

A special congratulations to Delta Air Lines for winning the prestigious 2023 Platinum Award for the third year in a row, achieving an impressive 84.72% on-time rate. 

Cirium’s on-time performance analysis, a staple in the industry for over 15 years, has been pivotal in evaluating the punctuality of airlines and airports. In 2023, the industry saw significant growth, with over 32+ million scheduled passenger flights. This increase, coupled with an upsurge in seat capacity, underscores the sector’s expansion. As we look towards 2024, Cirium remains committed to delivering comprehensive and unbiased on- time performance (OTP) data. This information, derived from an extensive array of sources including airlines, airports, and civil aviation authorities, offers a neutral, third-party perspective. Our independent board of advisors, experts in the field, guarantees the accuracy and fairness of our reports, ensuring they reflect a true picture of the industry’s performance. 

In reviewing 2023, global passenger numbers made a significant comeback, narrowly surpassing pre-pandemic levels by the peak summer months. This recovery, while uneven across different regions, marked a pivotal moment for an industry that had faced unprecedented challenges. The US and Western European markets led the way, with passenger revenues in the US domestic market reaching 20% above 2019 levels by the third quarter.

This surge in demand, however, came with its own set of challenges, including increased competition and rising operational costs. 

Business travel, a key segment for the industry, continued to lag behind due to ongoing cost management and a growing focus on sustainability within corporate policies. This was reflected in the major Global Distribution Systems (GDS), where agency bookings remained below pre-pandemic levels throughout 2023. 

Looking ahead to 2024, the outlook remains cautiously optimistic. The recovery is expected to continue, albeit at a slightly moderated pace. While passenger numbers might end slightly lower than pre-pandemic levels, revenue growth is projected to be robust, potentially surpassing 2019 figures. However, this optimism is tempered by the need for the industry to balance supply and demand effectively, especially considering the rising input costs. 

The Asia-Pacific region, particularly China, has shown a delayed but steady recovery trajectory, contributing to the global upswing in demand. This regional growth is expected to play a significant role in driving the global industry forward in 2024. 

However, the industry faces new challenges and uncertainties. The lessons learned from the pandemic, combined with ongoing geopolitical tensions and environmental pressures, are shaping a new era of strategic thinking and operational efficiency in the airline industry.

How airlines navigate these factors will be crucial in determining their success in the coming year. 

In conclusion, the airline industry is on a path to recovery, marked by significant strides in 2023 and a positive but cautious outlook for 2024. 

The Cirium team looks forward to providing more critical aviation data in 2024. The journey ahead is laden with opportunities and challenges, as the sector adapts to a rapidly changing global landscape. 

report highlights

  • Delta Air Lines celebrates its third consecutive year as Cirium’s Platinum Award winner for global operational excellence.
  • Avianca Airlines emerges as the global leader in punctuality.
  • Delta Air Lines also comes out on top in North America, with Iberia Express leading in Europe, Copa in Latin America, ANA in Asia Pacific, and Oman Air in the Middle East and Africa. Safair triumphs as the leading low-cost carrier.
  • Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport stands out as the top global airport performer in 2023.

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