If you are headed out of town for the holidays, lucky you. And bah humbug to all the naysayers who tell you to avoid airports on the whole. Sure, depending on your airport of choice, the potential for flight delays can grow exponentially. But if you are well prepared in advance you might just escape any kind of holiday travel nightmare.
To help you get to where you need to go, MagnifyMoney’s research team dug into 10 years of U.S. D.O.T. holiday flight data between 2008 and 2017 on the 50 busiest airports in U.S. to find out which ones are naughty and nice. Check out some of its findings as reported via a company press release below and get ready to get out of dodge for the holidays.
- The worst delays are after Christmas. About 66 percent of airports had their worst day for delays after Christmas. Dec. 26 is the most unfavorable day for holiday delays at 44 percent of airports. Airports with reputations for delays before Christmas include San Francisco International, Ronald Reagan Washington National, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International and Tampa International.
- No geography is spared. Amazingly, airports toward the bottom of the list aren’t just located in the snowy Northeast and upper Midwest. Among the bottom 10 include Oakland International, Salt Lake International, Houston Hobby and Denver International. Among the 10 at the bottom of the list or canceled flights, Dallas/Fort Worth and Raleigh-Durham are two surprises, with about 3 percent of holiday flights canceled, thanks to occasional ice storms at each airport.
- The Newark Airport hub? Not so good. This United Airlines hub, the airline’s third largest based on daily flights, only had 62.2 percent of its flights arrive on time in the past 10 years, with 4.5 percent of them canceled, thanks to its location in one of the most congested airspace corridors in the world. Try to avoid flying out on Dec. 27, the airport’s busiest travel day. Following Newark on the list for unfavorable connecting hubs was a bit of a surprise: Denver International Airport, United’s fourth largest, had 64.1 percent of its flights come it on time.
- The Charlotte hub is the best. Among the major connecting hubs, North Carolina’s Charlotte Douglas International Airport, an American Airlines hub, fared the best, with 75.7 percent of flights reaching their destination on time over the December holidays. A mere 1.2 percent of flights were canceled, but beware — the least favorable day to travel out of Charlotte is Dec. 22, which could make getting home for the holidays more challenging for travelers. Atlanta — the world’s busiest airport and Delta Air Lines’ largest hub — came in second among the big connecting hubs, with 74.9 percent of holiday flights reaching their destination on time.
- New Yorkers: Fly out of LaGuardia. Flights out of the city’s third airport — ranked a respectable 45 out of 50 for holiday delays — reached their destinations on time at least 75 percent of the time over the holidays, versus less than 65 percent at JFK and Newark. LaGuardia, which has strict federal limits on the number and distance of flights, has fewer of the regional feeder flights flown with smaller planes that are more likely to be delayed. Newark, as a major hub for United, and JFK, a major hub for Delta and JetBlue, have more of these flights than LaGuardia. When it comes to the most damaging delay of all – an outright cancellation – LaGuardia fares no better than the other two area airports, with 4 percent of flights canceled over the holidays.
- Chicago ranks the highest for holiday delays. If you’re departing from one of Chicago’s two airports this holiday season, there’s about a 40 percent chance your flight will be late. Only 61.5 percent of flights departing Chicago Midway arrived at their destination on time over the past 10 years of holiday travel. O’Hare isn’t much better, with only 61.6 percent of flights arriving their destination on time. But it’s worse when it comes to cancellations, with nearly 5 percent of its flights canceled the last 10 holiday travel seasons.
- Hawaii can relax. Travelers leaving Hawaii to see friends and family on the mainland have had it pretty easy, with 84.2 percent of flights departing out of Honolulu International arriving on time, and a mere 0.5 percent of them getting canceled, based on our data. Maui is almost as easy, with 83.7 percent of departing flights reaching their destination on time.
Read the full report on MagnifyMoney which also includes tips for avoiding holiday delays.