Last year was another unprecedented year for air travel, with the industry riding the many ebbs and flows of 2022. Even though it was a challenging time, there were a number of airlines and airports that excelled amidst the turbulence. 

Cirium recently published a report on the 2022 on-time performance of airlines and airports. We'll break it down here on Kambr Media and extrapolate the highlights. 

Excellence in the Face of Adversity 

A lot of the headline-grabbing stories in commercial aviation centered around delays, disruptions and disturbances as the industry had an uneasy time ramping up operations when passenger demand returned to many regions of the world. 

"When the recovery finally came this year, the industry—including airlines, airports, air navigation providers and other stakeholders—struggled with understaffing and insufficient capacity," Jeremy Bowen, Chief Executive Officer, Cirum, wrote in the report.

"Delays and cancellations became an issue. In time, however, operations stabilized as the industry added workers and adjusted capacity."

While there were certainly many issues that arose, primarily in North America and Europe, that shouldn't be ignored, there was also a lot of exemplary operational work from airlines and airports in 2022, which Cirium highlighted in its report. 

"Delays and cancellations became an issue. In time, however, operations stabilized as the industry added workers and adjusted capacity."

The big winners were Delta Air Lines and Azul Airlines (Azul Linhas Aéreas Brasileiras), with the former winning Cirium’s Platinum Award winner for global operational excellence (for the second year running) and the latter being the global leader in on-time performance.

Tokyo's Haneda Airport (HND) was the top-performing airport with an on-time departure over 90%. Rounding out the Top 3 are Bangalore's Kempegowda International Airport (BLR) placing second and Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) coming in third.

Cirium defines an on-time flight for an airline as a flight that arrives within 15 minutes of the scheduled gate arrival and an on-time flight for an airport as a flight departing within 15 minutes of its scheduled departure. 

Regional & Sector-Based Performance

While these were the big overall winners, let's have a look at performance from specific regions and sectors. 

The regional breakdown of the best on-time performance of airlines is as follows:

  • North America: Delta Air Lines
  • Latin America: Azul Airlines
  • Europe: Iberia 
  • MEA Mainline: Oman Air
  • MEA Network: Qatar Airways
  • APAC Mainline: Thai AirAsia
  • APAC Network: All Nippon Airways (ANA)

As for airports, OTP is broken down by size:

  • Large: Osaka International Airport (ITM)
  • Medium: Chubu Centrair International Airport (NGO)
  • Small: Miyazaki Airport (KMI)

Sky Airline had the second best on-time performance in Latin America and ranked fifth globally among low-cost carriers.

And maybe most interesting for our audience, Cirium also broke down OTP within low-cost carriers, so we'll look at the entire top 10:

  1. StarFlyer
  2. Solaseed Air
  3. Thai AirAsia
  4. Azul Airlines
  5. Sky Airline (also second in Latin America, just behind Azul Airlines)
  6. Air Do
  7. IndiGo
  8. Iberia Express
  9. AirAsia India
  10. Vueling

According to Cirium's data, the top 5 LCCs' OTP performance matches and in many cases, surpasses many of the traditional legacy airlines' OTP. 

Looking Ahead

While the airline industry had its share of growing pains in 2022, there are many positive signs to build on into 2023. Chief among them is rising passenger demand. 

According to Cirium, In 2022, airlines around the world operated more than 31 million scheduled passenger flights, a 26% increase from 2021, while the growth in scheduled seat capacity was 32% greater. 

2022 Capacity up 25-26% from 2021
2022 scheduled flights up 31-32% from 2021

These figures are in line with other industry reports. Data from OAG, has total airline capacity for 2022 at 4.7 billion passengers, which is up 31% versus 2021, and registers 31.2 million in 2022, which is up 25% from 2021. 

However, there is still work to be done. Scheduled flight departures this year were still 19% below their figures from three years ago. Even as late as the fourth quarter, flight departures were down 16% from 2019, cites Cirium. 

OAG references that some experts are projecting a full recovery is unlikely before 2025.