As much as you love to berate the poor gate agents because your flight to North Dakota was SOMEHOW delayed due to snow -- in January -- it’s really not their fault. It's the snow's! Airlines, despite their best efforts, are still at the mercy of whomever controls the clouds in the sky.
But if weather is such a universal factor for delays, why is it that some airlines experience more of those delays than others? The truth is that each airline does exercise some level of control over cancelations and delays, even when weather is a factor. Also, some airlines probably just fly more weather-friendly routes in more weather-happy skies.
To determine which US airlines are delayed the most due to inclement weather, however, the numbers folks at Stratos Jet Charers (a charter airline company that very much would like you to know just how long commercial airlines are making you wait) examined US Department of Transportation data from over 4 million flights last year.
This is what they found:
- Despite being based at perpetually fogged-in SFO, Virgin America spends the fewest weather-related minutes on the ground, at 13.5 per flight.
- The two most-delayed airlines are both regional carriers with names you only see after the words “operated by” on your itinerary. SkyWest and ExpressJet (both of whom service American Eagle, Delta Connection, and United Express) see average delays of around an hour.
- As much as you might like to poke fun at Spirit Airlines, it didn’t even crack the top five, with big names like Delta, JetBlue, and Southwest all experiencing longer weather-related delays.
And here's how the top 13 carriers break down, with the average number of minutes their flights are delayed:
13. Virgin America -- 13.55 minutes
12. Hawaiian Airlines -- 21.72 minutes
11. Frontier Airlines -- 35.86 minutes
10. American Eagle -- 41.06 minutes
9. United Airlines -- 42.25 minutes
8. American Airlines -- 44.18 minutes
7. Alaska Airlines -- 46.64 minutes
6. Spirit Airlines -- 48.58 minutes
5. Delta Airlines -- 51.01 minutes
4. JetBlue Airlines -- 51.45 minutes
3. Southwest Airlines -- 53.85 minutes
2. SkyWest Airlines -- 54.90 minutes
1. ExpressJet Airlines -- 57.52 minutes