Among the world’s busiest airports, six gave passengers better odds of arriving or departing on time last year than Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, though O’Hare’s numbers have been improving, according to a report released Wednesday by aviation data firm OAG.
Nearly 79.9 percent of flights arriving at or departing from O’Hare last year did so within 15 minutes of the scheduled time, OAG said.
That’s above average for the 20 most punctual “mega” airports, which had the capacity to handle 30 million or more departing passengers, but behind Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta, Denver and Dallas-Fort Worth international airports, which placed third through fifth among the largest airports and saw 82.4 to 81.3 percent of flights arrive on time.
All four lagged Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Alaska, where 86.64 percent of flights arrived or departed on time last year, good enough for fifth among global airports with 2.5 million to 5 million departing seats.
On average, smaller airports had a larger share of flights arrive and depart on time, according to OAG. Bigger airports tend to have more complex operations, which can affect punctuality, said John Grant, a senior analyst at OAG.
O’Hare’s punctuality has been improving, which Grant and the Chicago Department of Aviation attributed to infrastructure improvements, including runway expansions.
The city completed new runways at O’Hare in 2013 and 2015, and construction is underway on another, which is expected to be completed in 2020 and will be capable of handling the world’s largest passenger airplane, the Airbus A380.
“With future investments to further grow our capacity in the near future, O’Hare’s reliability, connectivity and overall customer experience will continue to improve and the airport will solidify its position as one of the world’s busiest and best," Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans said in a news release.
This was the first year OAG separated “mega” airports like O’Hare, with at least 30 million departing seats in a year, from “large” airports, with at least 20 million.
O’Hare didn’t crack the top 20 for performance on the combined list in 2016 but had a 78.29 percent on-time rate in 2015, up from 71.4 percent the year before, making it the "most improved airport in North America and eighth most improved in the world" that year, according to OAG.
Midway Airport was not included in the 2017 report because it did not rank among the top 20 airports within its size category.
Airports’ on-time performance also depends on the airlines that serve them. O’Hare’s biggest carriers, United Airlines and American Airlines, ranked fourth and fifth among North American airlines, respectively. United’s on-time performance was 79.86 percent, and American’s was 78.97 percent.