See how SLC compares to other airports for on-time takeoff and landing

More than 83% of flights through Utah’s biggest airport land and take off on time, based on federal data.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Passengers wait for flights at Salt Lake City International Airport on Wednesday, April 3, 2024.

Salt Lake City International Airport is a haven for travelers who get stressed by delays, according to federal data, but how true that is varies by month.

More than 83% of flights through the airport that gives people a gateway to Utah’s capital city and the “Greatest Snow on Earth” land and take off on time, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

SLC held the best ranking for on-time arrivals and departures in 2022, but lost the top spot to Minneapolis-St. Paul for departures in 2023.

Airport traffic increased in that same time frame by more than 2,600 passenger flights and 1.2 million passengers — about 511,000 boarding and 688,000 arriving — according to data the airport posts on its website.

Bill Wyatt, the airport’s executive director, said the dip is so small, there isn’t much to glean from it.

“It just is what it is,” he said. “It will go up and down.”

SLC consistently in top five for on-time flights

Salt Lake City was first for on-time arrivals and departures in 2022, with 84.32% of flights landing on time and 83.47% taking off without delays.

Both numbers dipped slightly in 2023, when 83.97% of flights arriving at SLC were on time and 83.1% took off on time.

That happened along with an increase in traffic from 232,450 commercial flights in 2022 to 235,130 in 2023, and an increase from 25.8 million passengers boarding and getting off commercial flights in 2022 to nearly 30 million in 2023, according to data from the airport.

The most common reasons for delays, Wyatt said, are issues with equipment and weather at the arrival destination. If a flight has to wait in Salt Lake City because of weather elsewhere, he said, that delay counts against the airport here.

“For inbound here, we’re pretty good there,” he said. “There aren’t any unique things. You can get wind events here that can be unusual, that might do it.”

Over time, he said, the airport has invested in the equipment that’s needed, such as snow plows, to ensure it can always be open.

Wyatt said Salt Lake City International Airport has always scored reasonably high marks on arrival and departure times.

As much as he’d like to take credit, Wyatt said it’s the carriers who help achieve those numbers.

“And in our case, our hub carrier, Delta, because they’re late based on their own schedule,” he said. “They publish that schedule and they tell you how long it’s going to get from this point to this point. And if over time they figure, ‘You know what, it’s actually taking us longer on average,’ they’ll just change the schedule.”

The airport hung onto to the top spot for on-time arrivals but was edged out on departures by MSP, also a Delta Air Lines hub, as 83.18% of flights leaving the Minnesota airport took off on time.

Rankings for both years are improvements from the past, though Salt Lake City has consistently been in the top five airports for arrivals and departures since at least 2019.

Two nearby airports — Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas and Denver International Airport — have ranked in the bottom half of the 30 major airports since at least 2019, except for arrivals to Las Vegas in 2019.

On-time flights vary by month

Though SLC was a top performer overall in 2022 and 2023, delays varied widely by month.

The airport hit a low of 73.9% on-time arrivals and 73.82% on-time departures in December 2022 amid Southwest’s holiday meltdown. Timely flights didn’t recover to more than 80% until April 2023.

The best month in 2022 was October, when 89.57% of flights landed on time and 89.16% took off on schedule.

But November 2023 was better with 91.27% on-time arrivals and 91.17% takeoffs without delay.

Summer months also generally had more delays in both years.