It goes without saying that the Thanksgiving holiday is among the year’s most stressful travel periods, not least because of the airport experience. Long lines, chaotic gate areas, more toddlers and teens, fewer road warriors.
Another holiday travel irritant, flight delays, is a double whammy, both dialing up the anxiety level and prolonging it. There’s not much that can be done to avoid delayed or cancelled flights, but knowing in advance which airports are more or less delay-prone at least gives travelers a chance to mentally prepare themselves for the possibility of yet another trip stressor.
WanderBat, a travel-research site, used Bureau of Transportation Statistics data for the day before Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving day itself, between 2010 and 2015, to determine the 60 airports with the highest proportion of delayed flights during those two days of the holiday period.
Here’s WanderBat’s list of the 20 worst performers:
- Akron-Canton Regional – flights delayed: 23%; average delay 18 minutes
- Chicago Midway – flights delayed: 23%; average delay 17 minutes
- Newark Liberty – flights delayed: 21%; average delay 12 minutes
- Syracuse Hancock – flights delayed: 20%; average delay 17 minutes
- Palm Beach – flights delayed: 18%; average delay 8 minutes
- Chicago O’Hare – flights delayed: 18%; average delay 11 minutes
- La Guardia – flights delayed: 18%; average delay 10 minutes
- Baltimore/Washington – flights delayed: 18%; average delay 10 minutes
- Lambert-St. Louis – flights delayed: 18%; average delay 10 minutes
- Hobby Houston – flights delayed: 17%; average delay 8 minutes
- Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood – flights delayed: 17%; average delay 8 minutes
- Long Beach – flights delayed: 17%; average delay 9 minutes
- Charleston AFB/Int’l – flights delayed: 17%; average delay 7 minutes
- Philadelphia – flights delayed: 17%; average delay 9 minutes
- Manchester-Boston Regional – flights delayed: 16%; average delay 9 minutes
- Minneapolis – flights delayed: 16%; average delay 8 minutes
- John Glenn Columbus – flights delayed: 16%; average delay 10 minutes
- McGhee Tyson, TN – flights delayed: 16%; average delay 10 minutes
- Richmond Int’l – flights delayed: 16%; average delay 8 minutes
- Northwest Arkansas Regional – flights delayed: 16%; average delay 9 minutes
Of course, past performance is no guarantee that they’ll perform similarly this year. But odds are they will. So if you’re flying through Akron, for example, where historically a striking 23 percent of Thanksgiving flights were delayed, be sure to pack the chill pills.
Other tips for surviving the holiday travel crush:
- Allow plenty of time to get to the airport, especially if you plan to park at an airport lot
- Book early flights to increase the odds of being accommodated later the same day in the event of a cancellation
- Travel to/from secondary airports
- Avoid checking bags if possible
- To avoid the coach crush, use miles to upgrade or pay extra for premium economy
- Have phone numbers for your airline, hotel, rental car readily at hand
- Fully charge your smartphone before leaving home
- For a respite from the gate crowd, consider buying a day pass to the airline’s airport lounge
- Sign up for PreCheck for expedited security clearance
And if all that fails, keep your eyes on the prize: the family and friends and camaraderie and deep-fried turkey at the other end of the trip.
Reader Reality Check
How do you deal with the extra stress of holiday travel?
More from SmarterTravel:
- The AARP Discount: Spend $12 to Save Up to $400 on Flights
- The Trump Effect on Travel: Some Early Indicators
- United’s New Basic Economy Fares – How Low Can You Go?
After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.
We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.