Airports to Avoid During the Holidays

Holiday Travel and Airports

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More of us are leaving home for Christmas.

In 2017, we broke a record. Over 107 million American travelers took a car, train, or plane last Christmas, with journeys over 50 miles. That’s the largest number of holiday travelers ever, according to AAA. Motor Advocacy groups said that a stable economy and cheap plane tickets pushed more of us to spend.

This year, that increase will likely continue. As a result, more traffic jams and travel hiccups will occur. Holiday travelers must also deal with other seasonal factors like weather-related airport delays and bad-timed colds. All of these “What If’s?” can add up to a lot of stress, due to the uncertainty of not getting to our destination on time.

While travel problems are unpredictable, we can find ways to better cope.

Busier Airports and Flight Cancellations

When it comes to airports and holiday travel, larger hubs always report a very high number of scheduled outbound passengers.

For example, here’s a list of the busiest airports for Thanksgiving 2018, based on total departing passengers and volume of scheduled departures:

Rank

Airport

City

Scheduled Outbound 
Passengers

Busiest Time
(local time)

1

ATL

Atlanta

1,263,168

8:00 am

2

LAX

Los Angeles

1,074,752

7:00 am

3

ORD

Chicago

1,057,482

6:00 pm

4

DFW

Dallas

828,891

9:00 am

5

DEN

Denver

787,629

10:00 am

6

JFK

New York

781,953

6:00 pm

7

SFO

San Francisco

714,796

12:00 pm

8

CLT

Charlotte

614,779

8:00 am

9

MCO

Orlando

603,100

6:00 am

10

SEA

Seattle

590,938

6:00 am

11

LAS

Las Vegas

585,395

8:00 am

12

PHX

Phoenix

572,981

10:00 am

13

EWR

Newark

571,303

5:00 pm

14

IAH

Houston

551,436

5:00 pm

15

MIA

Miami

548,175

10:00 am

16

BOS

Boston

509,491

6:00 am

17

FLL

Fort Lauderdale

475,635

8:00 am

18

DTW

Detroit

426,725

7:00 am

19

MSP

Minneapolis

426,900

2:00 pm

20

LGA

New York

393,599

10:00 am

21

PHL

Philadelphia

384,000

7:00 am

22

BWI

Baltimore

365,379

7:00 am

23

DCA

Washington, D.C.

323,566

4:00 pm

24

SAN

San Diego

312,840

9:00 am

The busiest airports for Thanksgiving week, based on the volume of scheduled departures. Source: Hopper and InsureMyTrip.

While this past Thanksgiving travel period remained s a busy time of year, airlines are still improving their on-time performance track records. Last year, airlines reported the lowest percentage of canceled flights, since at least 2009.

Year

Total Flights

On Time

Delayed

Canceled

2009

199,280

88%

12%

0.40%

2010

204,172

81%

18%

0.83%

2011

187,088

85%

14%

0.74%

2012

173,469

86%

13%

0.57%

2013

197,013

78%

21%

1.29%

2014

180,929

79%

20%

0.87%

2015

181,512

84%

15%

0.93%

2016

177,471

85%

15%

0.25%

2017

178,139

89%

11%

0.20%

While that’s good news that airlines continue to improve their overall on-time performance, some airports do report a higher percentage of flight cancellations.

Here’s the latest ranking based on flight cancellation rates:

Rank/Code

City/Airport

1. LGA 

New York, NY: LaGuardia (Highest)

2. ORF 

Norfolk, VA: Norfolk International

3. CHS 

Charleston, SC: Charleston AFB/International

4. ROC 

Rochester, NY: Greater Rochester International

5. PHL 

Philadelphia, PA: Philadelphia International

6. EWR  

Newark, NJ: Newark Liberty International

7. PVD  

Providence, RI: Theodore Francis Green State

8. DCA  

Washington, DC: Ronald Reagan Washington National

9. BUF 

Buffalo, NY: Buffalo Niagara International

10. JFK 

New York, NY: John F. Kennedy International

11. BOS 

Boston, MA: Logan International

12. BDL 

Hartford, CT: Bradley International

13. RDU 

Raleigh/Durham, NC: Raleigh-Durham International

14. RIC 

Richmond, VA: Richmond International

15. CLT 

Charlotte, NC: Charlotte Douglas International

16. MDW 

Chicago, IL: Chicago Midway International

17. BWI 

Baltimore, MD: Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall

18. GRR 

Grand Rapids, MI: Gerald R. Ford International

19. ORD 

Chicago, IL: Chicago O’Hare International

20. CLE 

Cleveland, OH: Cleveland-Hopkins International

21. CMH 

Columbus, OH: John Glenn Columbus International

22. PIT 

Pittsburgh, PA: Pittsburgh International

23. SDF 

Louisville, KY: Louisville International-Standiford Field

24. CVG 

Cincinnati, OH: Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International

25. JAX  

Jacksonville, FL: Jacksonville International

26. PBI 

West Palm Beach/Palm Beach, FL: Palm Beach International

27. BHM 

Birmingham, AL: Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International

28. MKE 

Milwaukee, WI: General Mitchell International

29. IAD  

Washington, DC: Washington Dulles International

30. IND 

Indianapolis, IN: Indianapolis International

31. MEM 

Memphis, TN: Memphis International

32. DFW 

Dallas/Fort Worth, TX: Dallas/Fort Worth International

33. BNA 

Nashville, TN: Nashville International

34. BUR 

Burbank, CA: Bob Hope

35. STL 

St. Louis, MO: St Louis Lambert International

36. HOU 

Houston, TX: William P Hobby

37. OMA 

Omaha, NE: Eppley Airfield

38. RSW 

Fort Myers, FL: Southwest Florida International

39. DAL 

  Dallas, TX: Dallas Love Field

40. MCI 

Kansas City, MO: Kansas City International

41. SFO 

San Francisco, CA: San Francisco International

42. MSY 

New Orleans, LA: Louis Armstrong New Orleans International

43. OKC 

Oklahoma City, OK: Will Rogers World

44. TPA 

Tampa, FL: Tampa International

45. MCO  

Orlando, FL: Orlando International

46. OAK 

Oakland, CA: Metropolitan Oakland International

47. MIA 

Miami, FL: Miami International

48. MSP 

Minneapolis, MN: Minneapolis-St Paul International

49. FLL 

Fort Lauderdale, FL: Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International

50. DTW 

Detroit, MI: Detroit Metro Wayne County

51. AUS 

Austin, TX: Austin – Bergstrom International

52. ANC  

Anchorage, AK: Ted Stevens Anchorage International

53. IAH 

Houston, TX: George Bush Intercontinental/Houston

54. SAT 

San Antonio, TX: San Antonio International

55. SJU 

San Juan, PR: Luis Munoz Marin International

56. SAN 

San Diego, CA: San Diego International

57. LAX  

Los Angeles, CA: Los Angeles International

58. ABQ 

Albuquerque, NM: Albuquerque International Sunport

59. DEN 

 Denver, CO: Denver International

60. TUS 

Tucson, AZ: Tucson International

61. SJC  

San Jose, CA: Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International

62. PHX 

Phoenix, AZ: Phoenix Sky Harbor International

63. LAS 

Las Vegas, NV: McCarran International

64. HNL 

Honolulu, HI: Daniel K Inouye International

65. ATL 

Atlanta, GA: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International

66. ONT 

Ontario, CA: Ontario International

67. GEG 

Spokane, WA: Spokane International

68. SNA 

Santa Ana, CA: John Wayne Airport-Orange County

69. RNO 

Reno, NV: Reno/Tahoe International

70. SMF 

Sacramento, CA: Sacramento International

71. PDX 

Portland, OR: Portland International

72. OGG 

Kahului, HI: Kahului Airport

73. SEA 

Seattle, WA: Seattle/Tacoma International

74. BOI 

Boise, ID: Boise Air Terminal

75. SLC 

Salt Lake City, UT: Salt Lake City International

This table contains data for non-stop domestic flights by major air carriers collected in 2018 thus far by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. 

Rankings were based on the flight cancellation rate per airport. Airports on the list also reported 13,000 or more scheduled flights for 2018 thus far. Does not include data past September 2018.

Researchers also noted other factors, like hurricanes, led some airports to report a high number of canceled flights earlier in the year.


Flight Cancellation Policies

Flight cancellation policies vary by airline and circumstance. When an airline cancels a flight, most will try to rebook passengers on the next available flight.

Airlines are also not required to reimburse travelers for losses incurred as a result of a canceled flight, such as prepaid, non-refundable:

  • Hotel room
  • All-inclusive vacation or resort
  • A cruise
  • A tour or safari
  • Concert or entertainment tickets

Travelers concerned about protecting any trip expenses should buy travel insurance.

Dealing With Flight Delays

Each airline has its own flight delay policy for passengers waiting at the airport; there are no federal requirements. Travelers concerned about delays should be aware of the following:

  • Generally, early departures are less likely to be delayed.
  • Book a non-stop flight (no stops).
  • When booking, ask the airline about the on-time performance percentage for an individual flight.
  • Closer to departure, check real-time airport data. This will provide timely information on weather concerns or air traffic delays.
  • Be aware of “creeping delays.” This is when an airline continues to push back a departure time it can sometimes be extended for hours or lead to a cancellation.
  • If a flight is delayed, try to learn the reason why to better gauge if the flight is in jeopardy of being canceled. Reasons for delays may include maintenance, fueling, crew issues, weather, previous flight with the same aircraft arrived late, causing the present flight to depart late, or security issues.
  • Some flights will be delayed on the tarmac before or after take-off. As a general rule, DOT prohibits flights to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours.

Passengers with departing flights at busier airports should consider travel insurance with robust travel delay benefits.

To schedule an interview with an expert or to request specific research data, please contact news@insuremytrip.com.

Methodology

Rankings were based on the flight cancellation rate per airport. Airports on the list also reported 13,000 or more scheduled flights for 2018 thus far. Researchers also noted other factors, like hurricanes, led some airports to report a high number of canceled flights earlier in the year.

While you may not be able to avoid traveling through these cancelation-prone airports, you can consider doing the following:

  • Book flights with earlier departures. Those scheduled after 4pm are more likely to be delayed or canceled.
  • Book flights that fly directly to your destination. Connecting flights may be cheaper, but you’ll increase the likelihood of travel hiccups and adding stops at “airports to avoid”.
  • Come up with a contingency plan in the event your flight is canceled. Could you rent a car and drive? Are there other flights scheduled for later in the day?
  • Remember to save all documents. If your flight is delayed or canceled, your travel insurance company will require documentation in the event you file a claim.

Download Travel Apps

Travel apps can help make your journey a bit easier. Here are a few apps to download:

  • Hopper — finds the lowest price airfare.
  • Waze — gives driving direction, alternate routes to avoid traffic.
  • Airline — for easy access to boarding passes, and real-time updates.
  • TripAdvisor — find accommodations, read reviews.
  • Avis — book a car rental on the fly. When you get to the lot, find the vehicle by flashing the car’s lights.

Consider Travel Insurance

Passengers with departing flights at busier airports are more likely to utilize a travel delay benefit this holiday season, and may want to compare travel insurance policies with better delay protection.

Travel delay benefits vary with each travel insurance provider, generally between a 5 and 24-hour window. The benefit is designed to provide reimbursement for reasonable meals and accommodations while unable to travel.

Tip: Travelers must be delayed for a certain number of hours before this benefit can be applied. When comparing travel insurance, look for the minimum delay time (typically, starting at 5 hours) to start qualifying for coverage as soon as possible.

For those concerned about a delayed flight adversely affecting a cruise or tour departure, travelers may also want to ensure a missed connection benefit is included under a selected comprehensive travel insurance plan. This benefit is designed to provide travelers with coverage if a delayed flight (for example, of 3 hours or more) causes a traveler to miss a cruise departure.

In addition to travel delay benefits, travelers can also use data to help compare the following benefits available under comprehensive travel insurance plans:

  • Trip Cancellation
  • Trip Interruption
  • Baggage Delay
  • Cancel For Any Reason

Comprehensive travel insurance provides a variety of benefits including medical coverage, emergency travel services, baggage protection, and trip cancellation and interruption coverage.

Try To Relax

Easier said than done, but with a record number of us expect to travel this holiday — it’s a good reminder that travel hiccups can happen. While we can’t control every situation, we can use the latest technology, data, and insurance to help us better cope.

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