For the second year in a row, Delta was named the top U.S. airline in the WSJ’s Middle Seat Scorecard ranking of the Best and Worst U.S. Airlines. The yearly ranking is determined by metrics such as delays, canceled flights, involuntary denied boarding and complaints.
The award comes on the heels of Delta’s recent designation as the most on-time airline by Flight Global for the second consecutive year.
Veteran airline reporter Scott McCartney of the Wall Street Journal highlighted Tuesday that Delta continues to find ways to improve during weather-driven irregular operations—of which there were many in 2018— further separating it from competitors.
Some Delta competitors pointed to tough weather conditions and other factors to explain lackluster operational performance, while Delta was touted for using these challenges to make strategic improvements to irregular operations preparedness.
Delta Chief Operating Officer Gil West told the Journal that how an airline performs in bad weather is key to its reliability. “Even though our weather’s gotten worse, our gap to the other carriers has increased quite a bit,” West said.
McCartney noted that “Atlanta, Delta’s largest hub, had more than 70 inches of rain in 2018, the second-wettest year on record.”
McCartney also shined a light on Delta’s efforts to improve its de-icing operations, noting that “Delta spent more than $20 million last year to buy a dozen additional de-icing trucks in Atlanta and build more de-icing pads.
“That reduced cancellations and delays, Mr. West says,” McCartney wrote, quoting West: “In one day, we’ll save 100 cancellations during a de-icing event in Atlanta.”
The article also noted Delta’s successful and expedient integration following its 2008 merger with Northwest Airlines. McCartney said Delta saw significant operational improvements earlier in its merger compared to other airlines’ mergers.
“Delta says it had 143 days without a single cancellation among its mainline and regional flights, up from 90 no-cancellation days from 2017. In 2018, the airline saw only 55 flights canceled because of maintenance problems. In 2010, it had more than 5,000 maintenance cancellations,” McCartney wrote, citing West’s numbers.
West said of the Wall Street Journal ranking: “It really does take a team to run an airline, and when we say we have the best people in the business, we really mean it. This recognition is just the latest testament to the best-in-class work of the over 80,000 Delta employees around the world. Without them, this honor wouldn’t be possible.”
As McCartney analyzed how U.S. airlines fared in 2018, he stated simply: “Delta shines.”