Holiday Travel Heads-Up
Holiday Travel Heads-Up: Study Ranks Most Delay-Prone Airports and Airlines

Holiday Travel Heads-Up: Study Ranks Most Delay-Prone Airports and Airlines

November 21, 2023
3 mins read

As the festive season approaches, air travelers across the United States are bracing for the familiar ordeal of holiday flight delays. A comprehensive study by Upgraded Points, utilizing data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation, sheds light on the airports and airlines where travelers are most likely to face delays. This analysis, covering the winter holiday season from December 14 to January 5 for the past decade, is pivotal for those planning their holiday journeys.

El Paso International Tops the List of Delayed Departures

The study reveals that El Paso International Airport (ELP) has the highest percentage of delayed departures at 32.78%. Other airports with significant delay percentages include Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) and Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ), with delays of 30.67% and 30.56% respectively. Texas emerges as a hotspot for departure delays, with San Antonio International Airport (SAT) and William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) also making the top five.

Delayed Departures Chart

Arrival Delays: A Nationwide Concern

For arrivals, Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) leads with a 30.67% delay rate. Dallas Love Field (DAL) and Denver International Airport (DEN) follow closely. Notably, William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) are tied for the fourth spot, indicating a broader geographical spread of delay-prone airports.

Airports with the Least Delays

On the brighter side, Lihue Airport (LIH) boasts the lowest delay rates for both departures (16.78%) and arrivals (17.33%). Charlotte Douglas Airport (CLT) and Manchester-Boston Regional Airport (MHT) also exhibit impressive punctuality, highlighting potential havens from the holiday rush.

Airlines’ Punctuality: A Mixed Bag

The study also scrutinizes the performance of airlines. Frontier Airlines leads in delayed departures with a 31.9% rate, followed closely by Southwest Airlines at 31.8%. In terms of arrivals, Frontier Airlines and JetBlue share the top spot for delays. Conversely, Hawaiian Airlines and Delta Air Lines emerge as the most reliable for timely flights.

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Denver International Airport: A Case Study in Congestion

Denver International Airport (DIA) epitomizes the challenges faced by busy airports. With record-breaking passenger counts and long TSA lines, DIA’s experience underscores the broader issues plaguing the aviation industry. Jeffrey Price, a professor of aviation management, suggests that early arrival at the airport is crucial to navigating these delays.

The Evolving Landscape of Air Travel

The post-COVID-19 era has seen a significant increase in flight delays, particularly during the holiday season. The study attributes these delays to factors such as air carrier issues, late-arriving aircraft, and national aviation system delays. This trend is a stark reminder of the evolving challenges in air travel.

Methodology and Data Analysis

The study’s methodology involved analyzing on-time performance data from the Bureau of Transportation across the last decade, focusing on the winter holiday period. The analysis included the 100 busiest U.S. airports and the 10 largest U.S. airlines, offering a comprehensive view of the landscape of holiday travel delays.

Insights for Travelers

For travelers, these findings are more than mere statistics. They offer a roadmap for planning holiday journeys, highlighting airports and airlines with better on-time records. The study’s extensive data, presented through charts and graphs, provides a valuable resource for those seeking to minimize travel disruptions.

Santa’s Flight Path: U.S. Airlines Most and Least Prone to Holiday Flight Delays (Image Credit: Upgraded Points)

Denver International Airport’s Growth and Challenges

Denver International Airport’s explosive growth presents a case study in managing increased traffic. Despite its state-of-the-art facilities, the airport is “bursting at the seams,” struggling to accommodate the surge in passengers. The airport’s development, including plans for new concourses and expanded train capacity, reflects the broader challenge of scaling infrastructure to meet growing demands.

Practical Tips for Holiday TravelersPractical Tips for Holiday Travelers

To navigate the busy holiday travel season, DIA offers practical tips. These include utilizing new TSA PreCheck lanes, arriving early for flights, and packing smartly. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) emphasizes preparedness, particularly during peak travel days.

Navigating the Holiday Travel Maze

As the holiday season unfolds, travelers equipped with this data can make more informed choices, potentially avoiding the worst of the seasonal travel woes. This analysis not only informs but also empowers passengers to plan their journeys more effectively, aiming for a smoother, more punctual holiday experience.

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