GBA Lifestyle News
By Kate Springer | June 13th, 2016

OTP means random things depending who you’re talking to. If you look it up on Urban Dictionary, it’s all about favorite character duos like Katniss and Peeta or Hermione and Ron. Over in tech geek land OTP means one-time-password, like your pin number or HSBC’s universally detested security device. If you confuse it with OPP, well, that’s another issue entirely.

But in my super boring world? OTPs mean only one thing: an airline’s on-time performance. Essentially, an on-time arrival is generally considered to be any flight that gets to the gate less than 15 minutes after the scheduled arrival time. You want to take airlines with high OTPs, because it means they’re consistently on time across the board.

In Asia, it seems like airports and airlines run a pretty tight ship. But when I travel back to the US, I cannot count the hours I’ve lost sitting in Chicago O’Hare or Dallas Fort Worth waiting for a plane to arrive and/or or take off. There’s always something getting in the way: engine maintenance, snow storms, hail storms, rain storms, a non-existent pilot (true story), a missing child (true story), a missing passport (this one’s my fault), an overhead compartment that’s currently held together with duct tape (true story)… the excuses are endless. And if you have tried to go through hours-long security or immigration in the US, then it’s probably fair to assume that the rest of the airport systems must be just as inefficient.

But I wanted to know if there is any truth to my assumption that North American air travel is always as slow as molasses. To figure it out for sure, I browsed through FlightStat’s Airline On-time Performance Service (OPS) Awards 2015, which tracked 90,000 flights to ranks airlines from all over the world. The website is the go-to for independent airline stats — it’s a treasure trove of historic data and real-time flight info, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Here’s what I found in terms of the top 3 most on-time airlines in Asia, in 2015:

  1. JAL (Japan Airlines): 89.44 %
  2.  ANA (All Nippon Airways): 88.88%
  3. Virgin Australia Airlines: 87.48%

And over in North America?

  1. Alaska Airlines: 89.10%
  2. Delta Air Lines: 88.81%
  3. WestJet Airlines: 88.50%

So what do we have here? The best performers in North America are actually pretty much in line with Asia’s best OTPs. But as for on-time departures (a flight that takes off within 15 minutes of schedule departure schedule), Asia airports were far more impressive in April 2016.

There were four Asia-Pacific airports in the top 10: Brisbane is No. 1 with a 93.58% on-time departure rate, followed by Istanbul (No. 2), Tokyo (No. 3) and Sapporo (No. 6). Meanwhile, there are only two North American airports — Vancouver (No. 7) and Salt Lake City, Utah (No. 8).

Moral of the story: If you want to arrive on time, go to Japan or Australia. If you want to take off on time, go to Australia, Istanbul or Tokyo. If you want to travel in North America on time, go to Alaska, Vancouver or Utah — and nowhere else. I’ll take travel inspiration from wherever I can get it, even buried under a mountain of stats.