Which Airline Cancels the Most Flights? A Comprehensive Analysis


Flight cancellations can be one of the most frustrating experiences for travellers, both for leisure or business purposes. The impact of these cancellations can range from simply ruining plans to substantial financial losses. Given the increasing frequency of flight cancellations, it is essential to understand the underlying causes and available solutions to stay ahead of such issues. In this article, we will present an analysis of the top airlines that cancel the most flights and discuss preventive measures to help minimize their impact on consumers.


According to data collected by the US Department of Transportation, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have the highest absolute number of flight cancellations in the US. Between American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, there were a total of 486,171 cancelled flights in 2019, making up a staggering 39 percent of all cancelled flights operated by major airlines. These figures are indicative of a company’s poor management, overbooking, capacity strains or other underlying structural problems.

There are airlines that are more reliable than their counterparts, such as Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines. Delta Air Lines is one of the most significant airlines globally, but they also claim one of the lowest cancellation rates, cancelling only 1.7 percent of its total flights in 2019. Similarly, Alaska Airlines is well-regarded for its reliability, with only 0.3 percent of all flights being canceled in 2019.

Many factors contribute to airlines’ cancellation rates, including airline size, fleet age, and destinations served. Considering these factors, various airlines that may have a higher cancellation rate than others are worth the travel risks.

Regional Analysis

Flight cancellations significantly vary by region, with certain regions experiencing more cancellations than others. This difference is mainly due to climate conditions, as extreme weather events contribute to climate disruption, leading to numerous travel difficulties.

For example, airlines operating in the northeastern US typically have higher cancellation rates during the winter months. Heavy snowstorms, icy runway conditions, and challenging winds tend to cause a substantial portion of the cancelations. In contrast, visual obscurity, including fog or haze, can cause a higher rate of cancellation for airlines operating on the west coast.

Despite these regional differences, travellers shouldn’t completely avoid booking flights in affected areas. Inclusively, some airlines may be better equipped than others to deal with region-specific weather conditions. Trainers should also take into account the likelihood of poor weather conditions during travel planning.

Historical Perspective

From the 1950s to the late 1980s, the airline industry was a highly regulated sector. At the time, a system called the Civil Aeronautics Board determined airline routes, pricing, and flight frequency. The market opened up to competition with the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, which brought in a wave of low-cost carriers.

Since deregulation, airlines have focused increasingly on revenue realization and cost-cutting. This focus has led to several controversial practices, including airline overbooking. Overbooking refers to selling more tickets than available seats. Besides the general consumer grievances, this practice has contributed to increased flight cancellations.

Cause Analysis

Flight cancellations can be due to various factors such as bad weather, mechanical and technical issues on the aircraft, crew unavailability and strikes. Planes also require regular maintenance to ensure that they comply with certified operation standards, leading to routine maintenance cancellations.

Certain airlines are more prone to specific types of cancellations. For example, a budget airline with extensive flight schedules may have a higher chance of cancelling a flight, particularly if only one airplane is available to serve several routes.

Fortunately, with digital technology, airlines can keep their customers informed about cancellations and take positive steps to reduce the associated inconvenience. One example includes an SMS notification feature that automatically informs passengers via text messages if anything goes wrong or any delays are occurring.

Consumer Impact

Flight cancellations can impact consumers in several ways, the most obvious being flight disruptions and missed connections, which, in turn, can significantly impact travel schedules. As a result, airlines are mostly responsible for post-cancellation management of passengers, such as refunds, overnight accommodation, and transportation for a ticket holder’s final destination

Moreover, flight cancellations often lead to unexpected expenses for stranded passengers, continuously missing business opportunities, as well as holiday and vacation time. As per the United States Department of Transportation data provided in the top airline rankings section, there were more than 3.3 million air travellers who faced few-hour to several-day delays due to airline cancellations, creating severe psychological impacts on travellers.

Prevention and Mitigation

Airlines use digital technology to keep their networks informed with timely news that alerts customers about potential flight delays and cancellations, often before they can even get to the airport.

Airports have invested in high-tech equipment to accurately monitor inclement weather conditions and use modernised systems to minimize the impact of weather-based major flight cancellations. These systems can provide detailed updates on weather forecasts and offer advanced prediction for affected regions.

Lastly, many airlines have also updated or revised their passenger compensation policies, providing more extensive information and incentives to those who are affected by cancellations to minimise the impact of such activity.


Flight cancellations are an inconvenience to travellers. This article’s comprehensive analysis of various factors such as airline rankings, regional analysis, historical perspective, cause analysis, and consumer impact enables travellers to be well-informed and better equipped for their next trip. With the prevalence of digital technology and pandemic-related travel disruptions, travellers must keep themselves informed of potential cancellations and plan appropriately to minimize the impact of possible cancellations.

We encourage our readers to share their flight cancellation experiences and seek additional resources to help when dealing with this unfortunate reality of air travel.

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