Planning air travel for the holidays? Nothing can ruin a vacation like spending more of it than you anticipated sitting (or sleeping) on the floor of an airport, eating terrible and expensive food, and fighting other travelers for the all-too-rare electrical outlets. But while flight delays may just seem like an inevitable part of holiday travel, you can partially control your airport fate; some airports experience much higher delay rates than others. Travel and Leisure did some legwork to analyze data reported by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and figured out America's best and worst airports for flight delays — so read up before you book those plane tickets!
Looking at numbers from 29 major U.S. airports, the report reveals which cities offer the most reliable experience when it comes to making timely departures, and which ones are most likely to have you pulling your hair out in frustration (for all of you flying out of Chicago, let's just say I'm so sorry).
Of course, when it comes to air travel, some things are simply out of anyone's control. Bad weather blows in, air traffic backs up, and accidents happen. But to make sure you're getting the smoothest experience possible, Travel and Leisure breaks down which airports are the best ones to fly out of, and which ones you should probably avoid if you can. Let's take a look at some of the winners:
BEST AIRPORTS FOR FLIGHT DELAYS
1. Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)
Just 12.9 percent of flights are delayed in their departures from this midwestern Delta hub, SLC. And hey, if you are delayed by two hours or more, some friendly tour guides will transport you to and from the airport for a free tour of Salt Lake City's Temple Square. I've done it, and it's interesting!
2. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)
Washington D.C.'s heavily political climate is certainly not for everyone, so you'll be glad to hear that DCA does a solid job getting travelers out on time, with only 14.3 percent of flights experiencing delays. This performance is leaps and bounds better than nearby Dulles and Baltimore airports, so choose DCA whenever possible (it's best before 1 p.m.).
3. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) and Portland International Airport (PDK)
Although Seattle is apparently so cool you might not want to leave at all, 85.4 percent of flights depart from SEA on time. Alaska Airlines, whose primary hub is SEA, contributes to this performance with its strong reputation for on-time flights. Tied in third place is Portland International Airport, which not only boasts the same success rate, but also has a tremendous selection of dining for people who are unfortunate enough to find themselves stuck waiting for a flight.
And now for the losers...
WORST AIRPORTS FOR TRAVEL DELAYS
3. Denver International Airport (DEN)
Denver is bad and only getting worse in terms of flight delays — a full 27.9 percent of flights were delayed in recent months, making it America's third worst airport for delays. If you must travel through Denver, go as early in the day as possible. Flight timings there only lag further as the day wears on.
2. Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI)
BWI has the second highest percentage of flight delays in the country (28.7 percent), and your chances of leaving on time only get worse as the afternoon goes on. You'll especially want to avoid scheduling any evening connections here.
1. Midway International Airport (MDW)
MDW in Chicago beats its closest competitor by over 7 percentage points to take first place in the dubious contest for most-delayed airport. With 35.7 percent of flights delayed, I hope Midway travelers have packed their reading material.
If you don't see your cities of interest above, then check out the full list at Travel and Leisure before booking any holiday tickets. If the prospect of a flight delay still terrifies you, try this innovative $25 flight insurance that will reimburse you for delays of just 2 hours or more. And when that unexpected flight delay does occur, look on the bright side — you could always try airport-based online dating!