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Expert view, Industry outlook, On-Time Performance

Flights flown in 2020 and the impact on on-time performance

January 7, 2021

On-time performance takes on a new meaning

With 49% fewer flights flown in 2020 and 67% fewer passengers, the next question is which operators are flying? Have we seen a shift in the busiest airlines, airports and routes?

Cirium’s new The Cirium Airline Insights Review 2020–Including The On-Time Performance Review 2020 analyzes the actual flights flown for the year and attempts to identify the airlines that best adjusted to the disruption and what recovery looks like – and we have seen some recovery.

At the low-point of the year, April 25, only 13,600 flights were flown globally. Today we’re seeing daily traffic up 300% over that day in April.

How are airlines recovering? As shown in the Review, we found domestic routes, new routes and increased cargo operations have shaped flights flown in 2020. Year to date, Southwest Airlines is leading the way with 869,800 flights flown. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) was the busiest airport this year, despite travel in APAC recovering faster than North America.

The Flights Flown — the year in review, includes

  • Top five operators by region
  • Top 10 most flown aircraft families
  • Top 10 most flown bidirectional routes
  • Top 10 busiest airports
  • Top five busiest airports by arriving region

On-time performance in 2020

With the industry impact of the pandemic, delays seem a little less important in the big picture. However, 2020 did reveal some interesting shifts. Because airports are less crowded, there were fewer delays due to gate conflicts and busy tarmacs. A sample of airports indicates on-time performance improved 14%.

While the industry is seeing better block times and gate-to-gate times, airlines had to adjust to passenger and cargo demand with more flexible schedules and less adherence to published schedules. The Cirium Airline Insights Review 2020 addresses the changes to on-time performance and discusses what COVID-19 disruption has meant for schedules and delays. The report demonstrates why for 2020 any stack ranking or airlines or airports is fraught. Contributors for this section include: David White VP of strategy, Cirium and Jim Hetzel Head of product management, air operations, Cirium.

Expert analysis

To help analyze the data and lead the discussion on what recovery looks like, Cirium has brought together a group of Cirium and independent industry experts for The Cirium On-Time Performance board:

  • Jeremy Bowen, Chief executive officer, Cirium
  • Mike Malik, Chief marketing officer, Cirium
  • Henry H. Harteveldt, President/industry analyst, Atmosphere Research Group
  • Dr. Mario Hardy, Chief executive officer, Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)
  • Luis Felipe de Oliveira, Director general, ACI World

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