Worst Airports for Delays during the Holiday Season

The folks at NerdWallet have analyzed November and December flight delay/cancelation statistics from the past five years for the 25 busiest U.S. airports and there aren’t a lot of surprises. Certainly not for frequent flyers to New York!

  • Don’t worry, we have advice after the chart below.

LISTEN: Travel expert Rick Seaney knows all about delays (and what to do about them).

Best and Worst for Delays

For some travelers these figures may be an eye-opener and something keep in mind with the holidays coming up.

Busiest U.S. Airports in November, December

Most Delays/Cancelations

Fewest Delays/Cancelations

Newark 28.62% Phoenix 16.31%
San Francisco 26.50% Charlotte 16.54%
New York LaGuardia 25.31% Seattle 17.15%
Chicago O’Hare 22.12% Detroit 17.76%
New York JFK 21.56% Miami 17.98%


While Newark’s rather shocking delay/cancel percentage – nearly a third of all flights – is bad enough, it’s not like Phoenix’s 16+ percent is all that great either. But remember the statistics show what happened in the past. Maybe this year, we’ll get lucky. Maybe.

Advice for the Holidays

Big crowds, long lines at the airport and the potential for bad weather can make a hash of holiday plans but there are a few things you can do.

Fly early in the day: Some delays have a cascading effect, meaning a weather-delayed flight in the Northeast can impact a sunny city out West. Taking an early flight can often improve your chances against getting caught up in mess.

Avoid tight connections: Don’t schedule connections too closely together. Take a flight that will arrive at your connecting airport at least a couple of hours before the second flight.  At holiday time, you might want to consider arriving three hours before the second flight.

Get connected to your airline: Does your airline have your contact information? If not, go back and add it right now; otherwise, they won’t be able to reach you with late-breaking flight developments.

Get to the airport early: Security lines can be long and slow during the holidays and if you’re not at the gate when the plane is scheduled to take off, it will leave without you. Unless of course it’s been delayed.

Be prepared for the worst: Be sure you have electronic devices, chargers or maybe a good old-fashioned book to keep you occupied if flights are delayed. And don’t forget some snacks.


Published: October 28, 2014