Fly Early If You Want To Depart And Arrive On Time

Fly Early If You Want To Depart And Arrive On Time
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Flight delays occur fairly regularly, but they’re a lot less likely to happen at certain times of the day. If you need a flight that’s almost guaranteed to stay on schedule, you better put on a pot of coffee – you’ll need to leave bright and early.

Photo: Bambi Corro III

According to stats from The US Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report for February, morning flights are the most punctual options. In terms of scheduled departure times, the rate of on-time flights starts around 92-95 per cent in the early morning hours, then gradually goes down as low as 73 per cent by late afternoon and early evening. So, you might want to rethink that 5PM flight.

Though these statistics are for American airlines, the same logic applies to Australian travellers. There are a couple of reasons early morning flights are more consistent.

For starters, they’re the first flights out of an airport, and the first to land. There are no planes backing them up on the tarmac, and there isn’t as much congestion at their destination since all of the previous night’s flights will have already landed.

Second, the early morning tends to have the least troublesome weather. The afternoon is when weather acts up and causes delays with high winds and thunderstorms. That means that not only will your morning flight be on time, but you’ll probably experience a lot less turbulence.

If being on time is a priority for you as a traveller, consider booking flights that depart between 6 and 7AM. It might sound crazy early, but in the month of February this year, flights from all the major US carriers stayed on schedule nearly 93 per cent of the time. Some airports, such as Honolulu (HNL), even scored an impressive 100 per cent for that time period.

And this isn’t a February fluke, either. Data on over six million flights going back to 2013 suggests that choosing early departures almost guarantees arriving on time.

It seems the early bird gets the worm – the worm being getting where it’s going without much trouble.


  • For shorter flights where the same actual plane may be doing the route 2+ times a day then the earlier you can fly, the better. It only takes a small delay on that plane’s first trip of the day to snowball to a long delay for its subsequent flights.
    Same applies to doctors/dentists – always get an early appointment so there’s been no build-up of delays.

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