If you’re planning to travel by air to get to your Thanksgiving destination, be prepared for some delays. The holiday is notorious for flight delays with kids coming home from college for Thanksgiving break and families heading out of town to see relatives or take a vacation.
But some days, some airports and some airlines are worse than others when it comes to travel delays. Analyzing five years of U.S. Department of Transportation data, RewardExpert, an online service that help consumers navigate frequent flyer programs and credit card rewards, has come up with some lists that may reduce the travel hassles.
The report released Nov. 2 rates the on-time performance of the top domestic airlines at the 45 busiest in the United States around the Thanksgiving holiday and determined the best and worst days to travel during the five days before and after Thanksgiving.
The analysis also shows the lowest rates of delayed flights occur on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23. But if you’re not willing to wait until the holiday, people who can leave early and stay for a while are least likely to get stuck on the tarmac or terminal for a long wait for takeoff. The best travel day this year is Saturday, Nov. 18, but Sunday, Nov. 19 will be a nightmare, according to the report, which said the highest rate of flight delays before the holiday occur on the Sunday preceding Thanksgiving.
The second-worst travel day is the Tuesday before Thanksgiving — Nov. 21 this year — according to the data. But if you can wait until Wednesday, Nov. 22, you’re more likely to arrive on time. Over the past years, an average of 84.9 percent of all flights on Thanksgiving Eve arrived on time, the analysis showed.
After the holiday, skip the Black Friday sales catch a flight instead. You’ll have the best chance of avoiding delays on Friday, Nov. 24, and also on Saturday, Nov. 25. But if you wait until Sunday, Nov. 26, to head home, you can expect heavy delays, according to the data.
Last year, the Monday after Thanksgiving was the worst day to fly home. Tuesday, Nov. 28, is likely to be just as bad, if not worse, RewardExpert said.
And it all depends on the air carrier. According to the data:
Hawaiian Airlines has the best rating among carriers. Despite a 3.8 percent increase in delays last Thanksgiving, 90.9 percent of the carrier’s flights departed and arrived on-time. Hawaiian Airlines has an average on-time rate of 93.9 percent.
Two of the three major airlines reported slight increases in delayed flights during Thanksgiving 2016, with only American Airlines reporting improvements in timely arrivals and departures. Delta still outperforms both United and American by about 5 percent, with 88.3 percent of flights on-time, compared to 82.9 percent for United and 82.8 percent for American.
Among budget carriers, Southwest and Frontier showed the most improvement last year, reducing delays by 1.9 percent and 0.85 percent respectively. JetBlue reported the greatest increase in delayed departures and arrivals, which increased by 5.7 percent. Though Southwest reported on-time performance last year just behind United, at 81.4 percent, its average on-time rate of 80.54 percent still lags.
Airports also play a role in whether you get where you’re going on time.
If you’re traveling to or from Hawaii, Honolulu International Airport has the best on-time performance record of any major airport. Over the past five years, 91.5 percent of all flights were on time.
In Chicago, on-time performance improved at both O’Hare and Midway over Thanksgiving 2016, with 81.3 percent and 83.7 percent of flights arriving or departing without delays, respectively. Over five years, 79.9 percent of all Thanksgiving flights at O’Hare arrived on time. At Midway, 80.4 percent of Thanksgiving flights arrived on time.
But travelers to and from the New Jersey and New York City metro areas should be prepared for delays. Delays increased sharply at Newark’s Liberty International Airport during the 2016 Thanksgiving holiday, affecting more than a quarter of the of the flights. Newark has the second-worst on-time performance among major airports, behind San Francisco International Airport.
Here are the five best airports for on-time arrival over the Thanksgiving holiday:
|Douglas (Charlotte, NC)||3,233||423||86.58|
|Southwest Florida (Fort Myers)||990||112||86.08|
|Salt Lake City||2,978||551||85.42|
Here are the five worst airports for on-time arrivals over the Thanksgiving holiday:
|William P. Hobby (Houston)||1,655||313||79.58|
To see how other airports and airlines performed, read the full report.
Methodology: To arrive at the rankings, RewardExpert analyzed data from the DOT’s Bureau of Statistics for the five-year period from 2011-2016, and examined the performance of nine airlines at 45 airports during the 11 day period around Thanksgiving (the five days before and after Thanksgiving). The average percentage of flights that departed and arrived on-time for each airline, airport, and day, each year were calculated. The forecast reflects a rolling five-year average of on-time performance. On-time performance for each day was then ranked for five days before and five days after Thanksgiving to obtain the best and worst days for on-time flights. Airlines and airports received ranks based on their average on-time record over the last five years during the Thanksgiving travel period.
Written By Beth Dalbey, Patch National Staff.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images News/Getty Images