Debunking The Completion Rate Myth. A Simple Analytical Exercise.

Airlines typically use a variety of reliability measures to assess the performance of their
operations. One of these, and the most widely quoted in press releases, is the Completion

The Completion Rate is basically a function of cancellations and diversions. And while it may average up to 99.00%, it does not reflect the accurate or complete picture of any airline’s performance.

How To Realize True Operational Performance

To understand true operational performance, costs incurred and customer satisfaction,, one must review the Completion Rate metric in conjunction with A) Aircraft punctuality and B) Equipment substitution.

These are key considerations because whenever an aircraft experiences a delay, it not only impacts the passengers, but also the airline operation and all parties that support/interface with that operation.

A Typical Example

A moderate size airline has Completion Rate of 99.3%. It operates a fleet of 150 seat aircraft, with 15,000 flights per month with a 70% load factor and an on-time
performance of 81.5%.

Despite this high completion rate, in actuality, 105 flights each month were cancelled which, in turn impacted a total of 11,025 passengers.

Analyses of delays, solely due to events within the airline’s control, indicate that 4.0%
or 675 flights were delayed greater than 15 minutes, impacting 70,875 passengers.

In addition, a significant number of passengers experienced delays due to factors outside the airline’s control. These include, among other things; weather, ATC and security issues.

The Question

For the airline to achieve a high completion rate, what measures must be undertaken and
at what cost?

Here are some factors to consider when addressing this question:

  • How many operational spares are required for substitutions to avoid cancellations?
  • How many additional aircraft and crew movements are performed to control cancellations?
  • How many passengers are rescheduled onto other flights or airlines to minimize the impact?
  • What is the staff overtime total required to complete these flights?
  • How are the passengers compensated for the cancelled flights?

The Way Forward

In order to gain a better understanding of the health of an Airline’s operation, several key metrics must be analyzed together.

These metrics could include: On-time performance • Station performance • Component and operational reliability • Number of spare aircraft.

Identifying root causes of controllable events and the timely implementation of corrective actions will help airlines minimize future events.

The continuous process of root cause analysis, followed up with corrective actions can lead to improved costs and reliability while, at the same time, providing greater value to and a better experience for the customer.



Airlines are initially constrained by the maintenance check intervals established by the OEM through the MSG-3 process.

While it’s true that most OEM’s work to escalate these certified intervals, this activity can often be delayed by other priorities. As a result, airlines in most countries may seek local approval for escalated check intervals, based on a statistical analysis... read more

One of the basic truths in the airline industry is that a lack of Arrival and Departure Punctuality is costing airlines millions.

Airlines are losing money every time an aircraft is not flying per schedule. Delays as little as 10 minutes can, depending on a number of related factors, cost airlines more

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