Passengers disembark from WestJet’s first-ever flight into Cranbrook. Paul Rodgers photo.

WestJet most punctual airline in Canada, report says

Air Canada, meanwhile, earned 20th place

WestJet Airlines Ltd. is the most punctual airline in Canada, according to a travel data provider.

The Calgary-based carrier placed sixth among airlines in North America last year, OAG said in its annual report examining on-time performance.

The report also lists WestJet at No. 15 among low-cost carriers worldwide, with 79 per cent of its flights on-time.

Air Canada squeaked into the so-called punctuality league, placing 20th among “mega airlines” behind the big U.S. carriers as well as British Airways, Lufthansa, and Air China.

The Montreal-based airline’s on-time performance was 66 per cent, the report said.

Calgary and Edmonton were the only Canadian airports to reach the top 20 for on-time performance, placing 17th and 20th in the large and medium categories, respectively. Notably absent were Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

The report defines on-time performance (OTP) as flights that arrive or depart within 15 minutes of their scheduled times.

Despite a rising tide of frustration against airlines as fees increase and seat space shrinks, OAG data analyst John Grant said airlines and airports “are reaching near peak operational OTP across the world.”

Complaints about airline service in Canada increased more than 570 per cent between 2015-16 and 2017-18, according to the Canadian Transportation Agency.

The vast majority of the 5,565 passenger complaints in 2017-18 were against Canadian carriers. Flight disruptions and baggage issues were the most common reason.

Nonetheless, Air Canada’s operating revenues rose nearly seven per cent year over year to $14.76 billion in the first nine months of 2019.

“It tends to say that customers like to complain, but it doesn’t have a big impact on their buying behaviour,” said Robert Kokonis, president of Toronto-based consulting firm AirTrav Inc.

“You look at the spread between the top North American (airlines), Delta — 83.56 per cent — and Air Canada — 66.42 per cent — that’s a 17 percentage point spread between the carriers, which is quite significant,” Kokonis said.

READ MORE: ‘Unruly’ passenger causes security breach, damages B.C.-bound WestJet plane

Six U.S. airlines made it into the punctuality pantheon among mega airlines — defined as more than 30 million seats scheduled for departure in 2019 — including Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines, JetBlue and Alaska Airlines.

At fourth place among the mega carriers, Delta was the top North American airline in the category with nearly 84 per cent of its flights on-time.

“Delta’s continued OTP dominance is remarkable given the size and range of its operations,” Grant said in a release.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

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