Indira Gandhi International Airport
Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images
Traveling to India and China? Pack your patience. Airports in those countries top our third annual list of The World's Most Delayed Airports.
Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport takes the prize for the airport with the least timely arrivals with just 45 percent of its scheduled passenger flights arriving on time. Beijing Capital International Airport has the worst departure record with just 38 percent of commercial passenger flights leaving as scheduled. To gather our information, we relied on FlightStats, a service that tracks historical and real-time flight information around the globe.
The Top Five Most-Delayed Airports
1. Indira Gandhi International Airport (Dehli, India)
2. Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (Mumbai, India)
3. Istanbul Ataturk International Airport (Turkey)
4. Chennai International Airport (India)
5. LA-Ontario International Airport (U.S.)
Officials from Delhi's and Beijing's airports could not be reached for comment, but their status should come as no surprise. Both were at or near the top of our most-delayed list last year.
Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport and Istanbul Ataturk International Airport round out the top three worst airports for timely arrivals. For departures, Dubai International Airport and Moscow Sheremetyevo International Airport follow Beijing.
A flight is considered "on time" if it arrives or departs less than 15 minutes after its scheduled take-off or landing time. In many cases delays can be attributed to growing pains at a particular airport. For example: Delhi's airport expects to open a new terminal later in 2010; Mumbai's airport plans a massive expansion by 2015; and Cairo International (fourth worst for departures at 54.7 percent) was forced to close one of its two runways in 2009 to accommodate construction for a third runway.
An airport official from Sheremetyevo International says that in most cases, delayed departures there are simply caused by flights arriving late from other airports. And Mark Davison, a spokesman for Great Britain's Stansted Airport (eighth worst for arrivals at 66.7 percent), which serves many budget carriers, says low-cost airlines frequently plan for short turnaround times on the ground.
And in many busy airports, air traffic also plays a role. "We've got three of the busiest airports in the country within a few miles of each other," explains Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs JFK, LaGuardia and Newark International Airport. The latter two of these appear on our list Newark is No. 6 for worst arrivals, LaGuardia No. 10.
Not surprisingly, officials from some airports don't agree with our rankings or our source, FlightStats. For example, a spokesman for the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (sixth worst for departures) says the U.S. Transportation Department is the U.S. authority for airport on-time arrivals and departures. In the U.K., it's the Civil Aviation Authority, argues Stansted's Davison. (Both agencies give those airports higher marks than we do.) Oliver Weiss, Cairo International Airport's chief operating officer, says FlightStats doesn't consider the full number of arrivals and departures at the airport.
But we use FlightStats information for several reasons. First, it gathers flight information from airports, airlines, flight reservation systems and other sources around the world. The Transportation Department, for example, publishes data on 31 major U.S. airports and includes only the 19 largest domestic carriers, such as Delta, Continental and American Airlines.
Second, definitions of what counts in on-time performance can vary by country. (Should freight flights count? What about chartered flights, corporate jets or air taxis?) For a global apples-to-apples comparison, FlightStats provided us with information on published, scheduled passenger flights in other words, the flights that matter most to commercial travelers. We considered flights at the world's 200 busiest airports by passenger volume, according to Airports Council International's 2009 World Traffic Report.
There is one caveat: No single entity gathers comprehensive on-time information for all airlines at each of the world's airports. Therefore, we included only airports about which FlightStats has the most detailed information. That means some airports, particularly large hubs in South America, weren't considered for our list.
For the world's least delayed airports, look to Japan and South Korea. Flights at Osaka's Itami Airport arrived and departed on time 94 percent of the time in 2009, according to FlightStats. At Seoul's Gimpo International Airport, 91 percent of passenger flights arrived on time, and 93 percent departed as scheduled.