Only three years ago, ultra-low-cost Spirit Airlines had the worst on-time arrival rate of any major carrier in the U.S. and one of the highest rates of consumer complaints — a combination that tarnished the airline’s reputation.
After alterations to work schedules, new pilot contracts and other changes, the Florida-based carrier was rated as having the best on-time arrival rate among all major airlines for the month of October, according to data released this month by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Spirit had an on-time arrival rate of 89%, besting Hawaiian Airlines (88%), Delta Air Lines (87%) and Allegiant Air (83%), according to the bureau, which defines on-time as within 15 minutes after the advertised arrival time.
Spirit’s October rate is an improvement of more than 10 percentage points over October 2015 (78%).
Spirit representatives said the turnaround was the result of a concerted effort pushed by Robert Fornaro, who took over as chief executive and president in 2016 and pushed to repair the airline’s image.
The changes to improve Spirit’s on-time rating included reexamining the blocks of time set aside for each flight and the time allotted for planes to land, unload passengers, load new passengers and take off — known as the “turn time.” The carrier also looked more closely at the schedules of flights into high-traffic airports such as LaGuardia and O’Hare.
“We got a lot smarter for how we schedule our airline,” said Greg Christopher, the airline’s vice president of operation control center.
But Spirit still has work to do. The airline is ranked as having the second worst rate of passenger complaints, 2.46 complaints for every 100,000 fliers in October. The highest rate of complaints for the month was 4.37 per 100,000 fliers at Frontier Airlines.