The aviation analysis firm Cirium, reveals that December was the busiest month in 2021 for flights worldwide, with a total of 2.43 million, however, the total number of flights canceled globally between December 24 in 2021 and on January 3, 2022, it was 59,240, or 2.4%.
The number of cancellations during this period is the highest number of cancellations in December over the last decade, six times more than cancellations in 2019 and two and a half times more than in 2020. A total of 20,500 flights were canceled in the first three days of the new year.
The big four US airlines, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines, canceled nearly 7,040 flights during this period.
The cancellations are driven by increasing cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and other operational challenges (including winter weather). Airlines quickly canceled flights due to shortages in crew and ground operations.
Global flights prior to Omicron increased 1.5% week-over-week (Dec 11-17, 2021). However, global flights are down 5% compared to the previous week, following the Omicron impact.
There are large variations between regions, with the US, Europe and the North Atlantic down 9-10%, China up 6%, while Asia-Pacific and the Middle East are unchanged.
“Flight disruptions affect airlines and airports differently: it depends on the availability and flexibility of available equipment and resources to react quickly. Those who plan more conservatively will minimize their operational disruptions. Cirium monitors the level of disruption by measuring the completion factor of flights and their performance on time, ”said Jeremy Bowen, CEO of Cirium.
“Cirium’s recent Spot Performance Review shows how some airlines have focused on their operations to reduce the impact on passengers. For example, Delta Air Lines completed 99.8% of its flights from June to December 2021 and All Nippon Airways, the winner of the global airline category in Cirium’s Review, had a completion factor of 99.2%. ”
Consideration is given to carriers with high volumes of flights. For example, American Airlines performed the most flights in 2021, about 1,850,050, and even so, its flights arrived 80.47% on time. The airline struggled to restore flight volumes after more than a year of deeply depressed demand, but completed 97.5% of its flights.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), the main hub for Delta Air Lines, was the busiest airport based on outbound flights with 336,890 this year. Despite the handling of most flights, it ranks 15th in punctuality out of the 20 world airports.
Amsterdam Airport (AMS) was the busiest airport for international flights in 2021, with a total of 123,070 outbound flights, however it did not rank in the Top 20 of the airport rankings for on-time performance. Airports have experienced many variables this year in implementing comprehensive pandemic protocols, optimizing reconciliation and collection of fees and services, and optimizing staffing.
Cirium’s Spot Performance Review is the industry standard for airline and airport operating performance. Cirium resumed reporting in June 2021, as flight volumes returned, with regular monthly updates that help gauge the industry’s performance in getting passengers from point A to point B, on time. Cirium’s point performance analysis is based on flight data from more than 600 sources of real-time flight information.