I track every flight I am on, and if it is on-time or late and the reason. Here is my 2009 travel summary:
112,008 miles, 8 airlines, 34 airports.
Total delays: 14.60 hours (includes credits for early arrivals)
Percent of all flights with a delay: 26.47% (52% of those were delayed more than 15 mins)
Average delay (all flights): 47 minutes
Percent of delays not weather related: 59.26%
2 of the delays caused missed connections for the night and having to stay in a different city than planned.
Percent of flights with a delay by airline:
United 18.75% (100% of those were delayed more than 15 mins)
Southwest 14.89% (57% of those were delayed more than 15 mins)
Continental 33.33% (67% of those were delayed more than 15 mins)
Jet Blue 40% (100% of those were delayed more than 15 mins)
Average delay by airline:
United: 42 minutes
Southwest: 42 minutes, plus one delayed bag
Continental: 66 minutes
Jet Blue: 82 minutes
I have heard many times that if I don't like a particular airline, I just need to vote with my wallet and fly someone else. That is a naive comment. In some cases, I have to fly into an airport that few airlines service but despite that, I have tried many times to use different carriers in an attempt to find the one that is most reliable. I have been tracking since 2006, and it can be seen year-over-year that no one is significantly better than another.
This points to another key point - all airlines are working within the same bad system. Individual differences will be minor until our FAA technology system is upgraded. As part of FlyersRights.org we have been fighting as hard for the FAA Reauthorization funding as we have for the passenger's bill of rights.