Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

These are messy times.

Summer is upon us.

Which means that when we get to the airport, we discover that hordes of people are trying to get away, just as we are.

And then there are the airlines. They're currently having to deal with a few issues beyond their control.

You'll be wondering, therefore, which airline might get you to your destination faster than any other.

The results for May have just emerged and they make for absorbing reading.

Prepared by the airline data fiends at OAG, the numbers show there's a winner and a lot of, well, not winners.

In the midst of all the chaos and pain, Delta Air Lines managed to bring 85.7 percent of its flights in on time.

You might think that, of the four behemothic airlines, the others won't have been too far behind.

Well, in second place was United. Yet its on-time arrival percentage was a mere 75.9.

Southwest managed 75 percent, while American Airlines was in the rear at 74.9.

The mere notion that you might have a 10 percent better chance of on-time arrival with Delta is, naturally, bracing.

Some will mutter that there might be uncontrollable circumstances affecting these results. 

Delta, after all, is the only big airline that didn't invest in the MAX.

Its three biggest rivals have been scrambling to avoid huge numbers of cancellations because they're affected by the grounding.

Indeed, United may have been slightly ahead because it has only 14 MAX planes, while Southwest has 34 and American 24.

The more caustic might ponder whether the MAX explains everything. 

Delta's operations are said to be the most robust of all the airlines. Moreover, the airline hasn't endured quite as much labor strife as have the others.

Southwest recently gave its mechanics a substantial raise to end a dispute that's been going on for seven years and reached the base level of an ugly divorce.

American seems to have the most labor troubles. It's currently suing its mechanics

How much might this be influencing the airline's performance?

Moreover, American CEO Doug Parker insists that on-time departures and arrivals are far more important than anything else -- certainly more than customer service.

The drily provocative might suggest that if you can't get the one thing you care about right, how can you possibly succeed?

You might be wondering how these U.S. airlines compare with those in the rest of the world in terms of on-time performance. 

Well, Delta is 33rd. United and Southwest are 96th and 99th respectively, while American comes in at number 100.

The most on-time airline in May? Indonesia's Garuda. The worst? The struggling ViaAir.

There's a certain amusement, though, in how on-time performance is calculated.

For the purposes of this analysis, any flight that rolls into the gate within 14 minutes of its scheduled arrival time is deemed to be on time.

If only you could be 14 minutes late for meetings and still be respected.

Published on: Jun 9, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.