Flight delays in Fresno? They can be lengthy, but less frequent than national average

Allegiant Air is the only airline offering service from Fresno to Las Vegas

The low-cost, no-frills airline is the only company with flights between Fresno and Las Vegas. It flew 188 round trips from January through May 2018. It has the highest rate of delayed departures from Fresno.
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The low-cost, no-frills airline is the only company with flights between Fresno and Las Vegas. It flew 188 round trips from January through May 2018. It has the highest rate of delayed departures from Fresno.

Passengers taking to the skies aboard airlines to and from Fresno Yosemite International Airport have somewhat better odds that their flight will take off or arrive on time than nationwide averages.

Through the first five months of the year, of 4,127 incoming airline flights to Fresno from other destinations across the western U.S., 3,495 arrived at the terminal gate “on time” – defined by the U.S. Department of Transportation as within 15 minutes of their scheduled arrival time.

That’s an on-time rate of 84.7 percent. Nationwide, it was 79.6 percent – or slightly more than one out of every five flights arriving 15 minutes or later after they were scheduled. Factors that contribute to delays include severe weather, backups in the air traffic system, security delays, mechanical issues or the domino effect of an aircraft arriving late at its previous stop.

Similarly, of more than 4,100 flights that took off from Fresno through May, more than 85 percent – or better than five out of six flights – left the gate on time.

The 2018 figures through May were released last week by the transportation department.

Not every delay is created equal, however. Mesa Airlines, which operated 317 round trips between Fresno and Phoenix under the American Airlines brand, had an on-time rate of 88 percent for its arrivals in Fresno and 81.7 percent for its departures to Phoenix. But it also had the longest single departure delay of any of the airlines here – a Jan. 4 flight that was postponed by nearly 25 hours before it finally left for Phoenix. That delay was attributed in the DOT data to the broad category of a “carrier delay,” defined as circumstances within the airline’s control including maintenance or crew problems, aircraft cleaning, baggage loading and fueling or other issues. The average delay for the 58 Mesa departures that were late was more than 78 minutes.

Utah-based SkyWest Airlines operates the broad majority of all flights to and from Fresno – not under its own name, but under contract agreements with Alaska Airlines to San Diego, Portland and Seattle; American Airlines to Los Angeles and Phoenix; Delta Air Lines to Salt Lake City; and United Airlines to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Denver.

Of almost 3,100 SkyWest departures from Fresno, nearly 450 were delayed by at least 15 minutes, and the longest delay was a SkyWest / United flight in January to Denver, postponed by just over 16 hours. That delay was attributed to a late-arriving aircraft at a previous stop, which in turn delayed the departure from Fresno.

More than 400 of its incoming flights to Fresno also were late, the longest of which was a May 21 flight from Los Angeles that was delayed for 21 hours – enough time for a frustrated person to rent a car and make several round trips over the Grapevine between Fresno and Los Angeles. Like the Mesa flight in January, this SkyWest delay was chalked up as some unspecified carrier delay within the airline’s control.

Allegiant Air, a low-cost airline that is the only option for Fresno flights to and from Las Vegas, had the highest rate of late departures from Fresno. The airline, which has come under considerable scrutiny for mechanical and maintenance concerns as well as delays and cancellations locally and nationwide, flew 188 flights to Las Vegas from Fresno through May, of which 45 were delayed – a delay rate of almost 24 percent, the highest of all the airlines serving Fresno.

Allegiant’s late-arrival rate to Fresno was better, at 18.6 percent or 35 of 188 flights from Las Vegas. This is the first year that Allegiant met the threshold for having to report its on-time performance to federal regulators. Airlines that account for at least 0.5 percent of domestic passenger service revenue are required to provide data on flight delays to the government.

A sixth airline, Frontier Airlines, began seasonal service in May and operated only five round trips on its route between Fresno and Denver during the period covered by the latest data. None of those arrivals or departures were delayed by 15 minutes or more. Nationwide, Frontier’s on-time arrival rate was 75.4 percent – the lowest national average on-time rate of the airlines that serve Fresno.

Across all airlines, late flights taking off from Fresno accounted for more than 1,047 hours of delays; the average departure delay among late flights was 95 minutes. For late-arriving flights from other cities, the delays amounted to about 719 hours, with an average delay per flight of 67 minutes.

Tim Sheehan: 559-441-6319; Twitter: @TimSheehanNews.