Holiday travel: See which airports to avoid this season

By The Numbers
Tampa International Airport_91508

TAMPA, WFLA (WFLA)- The holiday travel rush begins next week, and as thousands make their way out of Tampa International Airport and into freezing temperatures, 8 On Your Side is finding out which airports will see the heaviest traffic this year.

This year, travel experts are expecting airplane traffic to surpass 2018’s record high of 1 billion airline passengers—a  4.8 percent increase from the previous year.

Financial wellness website, CompareCards, analyzed 10 years of U.S. Department of Transportation holiday flight data between 2009 and 2018 at the 50 busiest airports in the U.S. to find out which ones have the worst track records for staying on schedule.

Luckily for locals, Tampa International Airport ranked No. 10 in the United States for the least amount of holiday travel delays and cancellations.

More than 76 percent of flights arrived on time in the past 10 years, leaving just over 22 percent of flights to be delayed, and 1.1 percent of flights were cancelled. 

If you’re heading to or from Chicago-area airports, however, you may run into significantly more delays and cancellations.

Data from the U.S. Department of Transportation found that Chicago airports are the most likely to have flights delayed during the holiday season.

According to the report, only 63 percent of flights out of Chicago’s Midway airport reached their destinations on time during the holidays, making it the worst of any airport included in the report.

One in three flights to Midway airport arrived at least 15 minutes late, with almost 3 percent canceled.

O’Hare International Airport is only slightly better, with 65 percent of flights reaching their destinations within 15 minutes of scheduled arrival times. Nearly 4 percent of flights are canceled completely.

New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport also had the third-worst flight delay record on the list, with only about 65 percent of departing flights arriving on time. Newark also has the highest December holiday cancellation rates, with a 10-year average of 4 percent.

More than one in three flights originating at these airports were delayed: Chicago Midway, Chicago O’Hare, Newark, Denver and Houston Hobby.

On a positive note, visiting loved ones in New York City may be a good idea, as New York’s LaGuardia airport rounds of the top five best airports for holiday travel.

LaGuardia has almost 78 percent of its flights reaching their destinations on time.

Atlanta also had a positive track record, with 77 percent of its flights reaching their destinations on time.

The airport with the most flights reaching their destinations on time was Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu, Hawaii. That airport had only 0.4 percent of all holiday season flights in the last ten years cancelled. It also touted 86.2 percent of holiday flights arriving on time.

CompareCards offered the following tips for avoiding heavy holiday air traffic:

  • Make use of apps: Flight tracking apps such as  FlightViewFlightAwareFlight BoardFlightradar24 and FlightStats could save some downtime at the airport.
  • Book flights in advance: Passengers will have a larger variety of flight times and options the earlier a flight is booked.
  • Take an early flight: Passengers are more likely to get out on time with the first flights of the morning.


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