Best And Worst Airlines For Holiday Travel

In the last three years the percentage of delayed arrivals has dropped to 27% from 35% at major U.S. airports during the winter holiday, according to the Department of Transportation. That’s the good news. This year the early onset of wintry weather is already snarling travel. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport over the next few weeks.

The Best – No. 5: US Airways

On-time arrival rate: 70.8%

Just three years ago a Consumer Reports survey listed US Airways as the worst airline for customer satisfaction. The airline then began a turnaround program focusing on reliability, convenience and appearances. Two of the other airlines we list among the most punctual during the winter holidays are US Airways Group subsidiaries.

The Best – No. 4: Piedmont Airlines (US Airways Subsidiary)

On-time arrival rate: 70.4%

Maryland-based Piedmont Airlines serves 55 cities throughout the Eastern U.S. and Canada. A subsidiary of US Airways Group, its planes fly as US Airways Express carriers. Piedmont has been recognized by the FAA several times for promoting its Safer Skies Agenda, which focuses on increasing aviation safety.

The Best – No. 3: Gulfstream International Airlines

On-time arrival rate: 73.8%

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Gulfstream International provides Continental Connection flights to Florida and the Bahamas. It also has a code-share agreement with United and flies charters to Cuba. The company went public in 2007, but in November it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Gulfstream International says its flights aren’t affected by the filing.

The Best – No. 2: PSA Airlines (US Airways Subsidiary)

On-time arrival rate: 77.9%

Ohio-based PSA is a US Airways subsidiary, flying primarily throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast U.S. Last January the airline received unwanted publicity when one of its planes ran off the end of a runway during takeoff. Investigators found the pilots at fault. PSA has maintained on-time arrival rates above 75% for the past three winter holiday seasons.

The Best – No. 1: Hawaiian Airlines

On-time arrival rate: 86.7%

With on-time arrival rates nearly 10 percentage points higher than any other airline’s, Hawaiian Airlines takes the top spot for timeliness during winter holiday travel. According to the Department of Transportation, during the past year the airline’s flights have also departed an average of 30 seconds early.

The Worst – No. 5: CommutAir

On-time arrival rate: 57.6%

CommutAir–the operating name of Vermont-based Champlain Enterprises–is a regional carrier that flies under the Continental Connection banner. The airline serves 21 cities, primarily in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest.

The Worst – No. 4: Comair (Delta Subsidiary)

On-time arrival rate: 54.8%

Cincinnati-based Comair is a Delta subsidiary, flying Delta Connection flights to more than 70 cities in the U.S., Canada and the Bahamas. That will soon change. To cut costs, Comair plans to slash its fleet size by more than half over the next two years and reduce its number of employees.

The Worst – No. 3: Trans States Airlines (Operates as USAirways Express and United Express)

On-time arrival rate: 54.3%

Missouri-based Trans States is a carrier for United Express and US Airways Express, operating primarily in the eastern half of the U.S. In July the company announced that it had purchased Compass Airlines, which will continue operating as a Delta Connection carrier.

The Worst – No. 2: Great Lakes Aviation

On-time arrival rate: 54.3%

Great Lakes, which has code-sharing agreements with United Airlines and Frontier Airlines, flies throughout the West. Although based in Wyoming, its major hub is Denver. During the 2009 winter holiday 56% of Great Lakes’ flights arrived on time, according to FlightStats.

The Worst – No. 1: Midwest Airlines (Recently Became Part of Frontier Airlines)

On-time arrival rate: 47.1%

According to FlightStats, just 48% of Midwest’s flights during last year’s winter holiday arrived on time. Of those delayed roughly 22% were late by at least 45 minutes. Earlier this year Midwest began a merger with Frontier Airlines that is expected to be completed in 2011.