BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A new study shared by the University at Buffalo explores how airlines can stick to their schedules a little better.

UB operations management and strategy professor Milind Sohoni collaborated with professors at Michigan State University and the University of North Carolina on the study, which took a look at airlines’ on-time performance.

The professors studied 11 years of flights between 2005 and 2015, looking at factors like schedule padding and operational changes.

“Airlines showcase their on-time performance (OTP), a globally accepted operational performance metric, to demonstrate punctuality, service reliability, and attract air travelers,” the study’s abstract reads.

MORE | Read the abstract of the study here.

For instance, here are the percentages of flights via major U.S. airlines that arrived on time in August 2023, according to OAG Aviation. Included next to each airport’s name is its worldwide ranking for being on time:

  • (25th) Delta Air Lines: 80.9 percent
  • (28th) United Airlines: 80.6 percent
  • (51st) Southwest Airlines: 73.6 percent
  • (73rd) Spirit Airlines: 66 percent
  • (86th) Frontier Airlines: 63 percent
  • (88th) JetBlue: 61.3 percent

German airline Eurowings ranked number one in its timeliness, with 97.4 percent of its 17,823 August flights arriving on time.

Looking at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport as a whole, it falls somewhere in the middle of those U.S. airlines, with 75.5 percent of last month’s 2,122 departures leaving on time, OAG says.

“While there is a high degree of variation in airlines’ OTP from year to year, it is unclear if and the extent to which airlines’ active or passive actions impact their OTP because of factors, like weather, outside an airline’s control,” the study says.

All in all, the study points to operational improvements as having “the highest association with both the change in OTP and OTP rankings of airlines.” Operational improvements include “efforts to reduce travel time, increase boarding efficiency and minimize gate-related delays,” UB says.

Schedule padding, or adding additional time to a schedule, followed. Network structure changes like those to flight routes or schedules had the lowest impact on OTP rankings.

Competition plays a factor, too, according to the study’s abstract.

“We show that while an airline’s own actions can improve its OTP ranking, a competitor’s action may negatively affect the ranking. In fact, a competitor’s passive strategy of schedule padding may have a higher impact than an airline’s own active strategy of changes in network structure.”

For costs ranging from $10 to $42, the full study can be viewed or downloaded here.