In 2011, Salt Lake City also finished No. 1 in FlightStats rankings with 86.55 percent of its departures on time. It finished No. 5 in 2010 with 83.9 percent on time, and was No. 3 in 2009 with 84.42 percent.
"Typically, a good record with on-time performance is due to weather conditions," said Barbara Gann, spokeswoman for the airport. "It almost always translates into a year when there wasn't a lot of weather impact not just locally but across the nation because of the ripple effect" from flights being delayed elsewhere that may also delay continuing flights with the same aircraft in Salt Lake City.
Another reason for Salt Lake City's top performance, Gann said, is "We have a really strong team here with good relationships between the airport, the airlines and the FAA [the Federal Aviation Administration]," to work hard to keep flights moving as scheduled.
But as far as equipment or special procedures, Gann says Salt Lake City has "nothing that other airports don't have."
For flights that did not leave on time from Salt Lake City in 2012, FlightStats says 4.45 percent were 15 to 29 minutes late; 2.04 percent were 30 to 44 minutes late; 4.04 percent were more than 45 minutes late; and the rest were either canceled or diverted.
FlightStats tracks the performance of 150,000 flights per day and archives the data for analysis and quick publication. In contrast to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics that taps data from the largest U.S. airlines, FlightStats gathers its own data in real time. Rankings of airports by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics are due later in the year.
Top on-time airports
The following airports were best in 2012 on-time performance in North America for departures, according to FlightStats:
1. Salt Lake City International, 89.21 percent.
2. Portland, Ore., 87.9 percent.
3. Seattle, 87.75 percent.
4. Minneapolis, 86.56 percent.
5. Memphis, Tenn., 86.51 percent.