Airlines with most flight delays and cancellations, according to Singaporean travellers

Airlines with most flight delays and cancellations, according to Singaporean travellers
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Have you ever heard travel horror stories from your friends and family about flights being delayed for hours? Or worse, cancelled?

These tales of travel terror get us all nervous, but they're anecdotal at best. In the grand scheme of things, how do we know if flight delays really do happen very frequently on Airline X? Or if Airline Y really does end up cancelling a lot of their flights?

We carry out a proper survey on flight cancellations and delays, that's how. MoneySmart asked over 1,700 Singaporeans about the flight delays, flight cancellations, and compensation received for both over the past year or so (May 2022-2023). Here's what we found out.

Disclaimer: The findings we talk about below are all informed by reported data from Singaporean travellers, and are not definitive figures of flight cancellations or delays as reported by the airlines themselves.

Flight delays

1. Air India and Air China had the highest reported rates of flight delays

According to the Singaporean travellers who participated in the survey, Air India had the greatest proportion of flights that were delayed. A total of 78 per cent of survey respondents reported that their Air India flight was delayed-that's almost four in five travellers!

Air China had the second highest percentage of respondents reporting that they experienced flight delays while flying with this airline-specifically, 70 per cent or seven in 10 respondents. Cebu Pacific Air wasn't far behind, with 69 per cent of respondents saying that their flights with the airline were delayed.

Here are some common reasons flights are delayed:

2. Almost 2 out of 5 Singapore Airlines travellers had their flights delayed

So, how did our national carrier fare? 2023's best airline in the world, according to Skytrax? Based on data from our survey respondents, 38 per cent of them who flew with Singapore Airlines from May 2022 to May 2023 had their flights delayed. That's the 9th place in our list of the top 12 airlines that saw flight delays.

3. Most travel delays didn't exceed 4 hours

According to the Singaporean travellers we surveyed, nearly two-fifths (38 per cent) of travellers reported experiencing delays longer than four hours. Yikes! That's at least as long as twp movies.

The most common length of time that flight delays lasted was (thankfully) on the lower end, at one to three hours. About 40 per cent of respondents reported flight delays within this duration.

Wondering if certain airlines had longer flight delays than others? You bet they did. Based on the data collected from the Singaporean travellers who took part in this survey, Air India had the longest delays — 23 per cent of travellers reported that they were delayed for seven to nine hours. In second place of a competition no one wants to win was All Nippon Airways (ANA). 33 per cent of the ANA travellers surveyed reported delays of four to six hours between May 2022 to May 2023.

Flight cancellations

4. Air India and Cebu Pacific Air had the highest reported rates of flight cancellations

What's worse than a flight delay? A flight cancellation-when you find yourself stranded with no flight and no clear idea of when or how you'll get to your destination. This affliction might be one of a traveller's worst nightmares!

In our study, leaving out the flight cancellations that were due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, Air India was the airline with the highest rate of flight cancellations. 71 per cent of those Singaporean travellers surveyed who had flown with Air India said that their flights had been cancelled.

Behind Air India was Cebu Pacific Air, which saw 65 per cent of survey respondents who'd flown with them reporting that they had experienced a flight cancellation. And closely following in third place was Air China, with 64 per cent of their travellers in this survey saying they'd had their flights cancelled.

5. About 1 in 4 respondents waited only 1 to 3 hours for a replacement flight

After a flight gets cancelled, you're at the airline's mercy to get you a replacement flight. Based on our survey, this process can take anywhere from one hour to even 12 hours for some airlines

Thankfully, the most common wait time for a replacement flight that survey respondents reported was just one to three hours, as was reported by 27 per cent of Singaporean travellers in the survey. And for Singapore Airlines, a good third (33 per cent) of survey respondents reported that they only waited one to three hours to get a replacement flight. That puts SQ as the winner when it comes to the quickest airline in this study to give their customers with cancelled flights a replacement one.

On the other hand, ANA and Japan Airlines saw the longest wait times for their cancelled flight customers. Most waited 10 to 12 hours for a replacement flight.

Compensation for flight disruptions

6. About 2 in 5 respondents did not get compensated for delayed flights

We all get annoyed when our flights get delayed. Perhaps even anxious, should the delays be significant enough to disrupt travel plans. Therefore it's only fitting that airlines provide some form of compensation for flight delays, right?

Well yes... but not always, it seems. Of the survey respondents whose flights were delayed, an average of 42 per cent said that they did not receive direct compensation from the airline they flew with. That's about two in every five respondents!

Fortunately, the study found that airlines were more likely to compensate survey respondents for cancelled flights compared to delayed ones. About two-thirds (68 per cent) of Singaporean travellers in the survey indicated that they got direct compensation from the airline they flew with after their flight got cancelled.  

7. Air China was the most likely to compensate respondents whose flights were delayed or cancelled

Comparing the flight delay compensation rates across the 12 different airlines, Air China had the highest likelihood of compensating its delayed travellers. 71 per cent of Air China travellers who experienced flight delays received compensation from the airline, followed by Bangkok Airways travellers (66 per cent) and British Airways travellers (64 per cent).

On the flipside, Singapore Airlines' budget arm, Scoot, fared the worst among then 12 airlines surveyed when it came to compensating delayed travellers. Scoot compensated only 23 per cent of the Sigaporean travellers in this survey whose flights were delayed. In other words, a good 77per cent of Scoot passengers were delayed and received no compensation to make up for it.

As for compensation given to travellers who had their flights cancelled, Air India came out at the bottom... again. Yup, the airline with the highest rates of both flight delays and cancellations was also reported by Singaporean travellers to also have the lowest rate of compensating for flight cancellations. Only 43 per cent of their passengers in this survey received compensation.

Impact of travel disruptions

8. Are the travellers we surveyed scarred for life?

Ok, we exaggerate. But as far as travel trauma goes, there's no denying that flight delays and cancellations suck, and they do have lasting impact on the way we travel.

As you can imagine, a good number of respondents lost some faith in the airline they flew with. Almost half (47per cent) expressed that they were extremely disappointed with the way the airline they flew with handled their delays or cancellations. Worse still, 39 per cent of respondents conceded that the flight disruption and how the airline handled it made them not want to fly with that airline again. Yikes! Definitely a big blow to customer trust and loyalty.

But more broadly, travel disruptions also affected survey respondents' general expectations and concerns when it comes to travelling. 58 per cent of them said that they now frequently worry about such disruptions happening again in the future. 62 per cent said that their flight delay/cancellation experience was stressful, and 65 per cent of the respondents now always make it a point to get travel insurance before their trip to protect themselves against travel disruptions. That brings us to our next point.

9. How do I avoid flight delays and cancellations?

Well the truth is, you can't. Like traffic jams on the road and train breakdowns on the MRT, flight delays and cancellations are usually unforeseen and always inevitable phenomena. If they happen, they happen. 

That said, this doesn't mean that you've got to be resigned to the fact that the airline has wasted your precious travel time and disrupted your carefully planned itinerary. There's a simple way to ensure you'll get compensated in the event of flight cancellations and disruptions: Travel insurance.

Wondering if you really need travel insurance? Travel insurance doesn't just cover you for flight delays and cancellations, but also sudden emergencies, overseas medical costs, lost or delayed luggage, personal accidents, and (touch wood!) even death. It doesn't always come cheap, but it's always better to have travel insurance so you can make claims for compensation in the event of any travel inconveniences or emergencies.

For the most value for money options, we recommend FWD and Bubblegum. 

One of the most customisable travel insurance options out there is STARR TraveLead Comprehensive, which comes in three tiers: Gold, Silver and Bronze. We'd suggest you get Silver or Gold, because only these come with Covid-19 coverage too.

And finally, MSIG travel insurance is a good option that already comes with Covid-19 coverage.

ALSO READ: Best hotel rewards and loyalty programmes that work around the world (2023)

This article was first published in MoneySmart.

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