Air New Zealand and Auckland Airport are among the most punctual operators in the world, according to a report by travel data company OAG.

The report, based on 57 million flight records for last year, said an improved performance from Air New Zealand had returned the NZX-listed carrier to the top 20, at number 17 for on-time performance for mainline airlines.

Mainline airlines are those ranked among the top 250 globally for available seat kilometers, with more than 30,000 scheduled flights last year and excluded low-cost carriers.

OAG listed Air New Zealand's on-time performance as 81.33 per cent, compared to first-placed airBaltic at 90.01 per cent and fifth placed Qantas Airways at 86.18 per cent. Virgin Australia was one place behind Air New Zealand in eighteenth place at 81.06 per cent.

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OAG defined on-time performance (OTP) as flights that arrived or departed within 14 minutes and 59 seconds (under 15 minutes) of their scheduled arrival/departure times.

In the Asia Pacific region Air New Zealand ranked in eighth place, with Qantas second and Hong Kong Airlines taking the top spot with an OTP of 88.83 per cent.

The ranking for large airports - those with 10-20 million departing seats a year - placed Auckland Airport at nineteenth with an OTP of 80.23 per cent, with Japan's Osaka airport taking the top spot at 88.45 per cent.

Air New Zealand reported pre-tax earnings of $527m for the year to June 30 last year - down from $663m the prior year but the second highest in its history. Net profit fell to $382m from $463m in 2016.

The International Air Transport Association has forecast global airline industry net profit to rise to $38.4 billion this year, an improvement from the $34.5b expected net profit for last year.

Another 200 million passengers are expected to travel, although the rate of growth is slowing.

Strong demand, efficiency and reduced interest payments would help airlines improve net profitability next year, despite rising costs. It was expected to be the fourth consecutive year of sustainable profits, with a return on invested capital (9.4 per cent) exceeding the industry's average cost of capital (7.4 per cent).

The biggest challenge to profitability was rising fuel and labour costs. Oil prices are expected to average US$60/barrel for Brent crude this year18 (up 10.7 per cent from $54.2 a barrel last year).

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Top airlines by on-time performance (mainline):
• 1. airBaltic 90.01%
• 2. Hong Kong Airlines 88.83%
• 3. Hawaiian Airlines 87.24%
• 4. Copa Airlines 86.39%
• 5. Qantas Airways 86.18%
• 17. Air New Zealand 81.33%