You’re headed home for the holidays—and hopefully, barring any flight delays, you make it before the turkey hits the table or the holiday festivities get underway. A new report from Upgraded Points, a points and miles website, reveals the airports where travelers are most likely to be delayed during the winter holiday season.
While you might expect airports in winter wonderlands to top the list, the most flight delays actually happen at airports in states with mild weather, the analysis found.
“Weather as one of the top causes of holiday flight delays is a common misconception,” Audrey Small, a research assistant with Upgraded Points said.
In fact, across all carriers and airports that the team analyzed, weather was a cause of flight delays in November and December about 25 percent of the time in 2022 and even less frequently in 2021.
“The large majority of delayed flights are caused by other factors, such as air carrier delays, an aircraft arriving late, and national aviation system delays,” Small said.
Flight delays are an inevitable part of traveling, especially as the 2023 holiday travel season is bound to be a busy one. Forty-eight percent of people plan to travel during the holiday, according to Deloitte, which is up 31 percent from last year. Airports will be especially hectic, as the Transportation Security Administration predicts the busiest holiday season on record.
But knowing which airports and carriers tend to have more delays can help you avoid travel hiccups, especially if you’ve got options when it comes to the routes on your itinerary or which carrier you fly.
To determine the U.S. airports most prone to holiday flight delays, the researchers at Upgraded Points analyzed on-time performance data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation. The team looked at data from 2014 to 2022 during the winter holiday season, capturing data between Dec. 14 to Jan. 5. The study evaluated the 100 busiest U.S. airports and the 10 largest U.S. airlines, determined by Federal Aviation Administration data.
What Airports Have the Highest Percentage of Delayed Departures During the Holiday Season?
The average percentage of delayed flights from airports is 25%, according to Upgraded Points. Here are the airports that have higher-than-average delayed departures.
No. 1: El Paso International Airport (ELP) in Texas: 32.8%
No. 2: Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) in Puerto Rico: 30.7%
No. 3: Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ) in New Mexico: 30.6%
No. 4: San Antonio International Airport (SAT) in Texas: 30.3%
No. 5: William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) in Houston, Texas: 30.2%
No. 6: Will Rogers World Airport (OKC) in Oklahoma: 30%
No. 7: Oakland International Airport (OAK) in California: 29.8%
No. 8: Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) in Nevada: 29.7%
No. 9: Sacramento International Airport: (SMF): 29.3%
No. 10: Boise Airport (BOI): 29.2%
What Airlines Have the Most Delays During the Holiday Season?
The top 5 airlines with the most delayed departures during the holiday season are as follows:
No. 1: Frontier Airlines: 31.9%
No. 2: Southwest Airlines: 31.8%
No. 3: JetBlue: 30.8%
No. 4: Allegiant Air: 29.2%
No. 5: Spirit Airlines: 28.1%
What Airports Have The Fewest Percentage of Delays During the Holiday Season?
On the flip side, some airports boast good on-time records. These are the top five airports for on-time departures, according to Upgraded Points.
No. 1: Lihue Airport (LIH) on the Island of Kauai: 16.8%
No. 2: Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) in North Carolina: 17.4%
No. 3: Kahului Airport (OGG) on the Island of Maui: 17.6%
No. 4: Kona International At Keahole Airport (KOA) on the island of Hawaii: 17.9%
No. 5: Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) in Atlanta, Georgia: 19.4%