How to avoid flight delays and cancellations during the holidays

Although air travel is slowly returning to normal, delays and cancellations are still commonplace. On October 24, more than 6,000 flights to, from or within the United States were delayed – and 231 were canceled.

Overall, 3% of flights were canceled in August 2022. This is an improvement from the more than 7% that were reduced earlier in the year, but it is still 50% above average 1.9% in 2019.

That year, US carriers had an on-time arrival rate of 79%. By June 2022, the rate had fallen to 73.5%.

Expect more headaches as we head into the busy holiday travel season: More than half of Americans plan to travel for Thanksgiving or Christmas, according to a survey by travel site Hopper.

There is little you can do to prevent a specific flight from being delayed or canceled. But there are a few common sense steps that will give you a better chance of getting to your destination on time.

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1. Fly earlier in the day

Leave before 3 p.m. to reduce the risk of cancellation, according to the Official Airline Guide, a UK-based global travel data provider. Flights that depart later are on average 50% more likely to be disrupted.

Almost all airlines will endeavor to get you on the next available flight, but if you’ve booked the last flight of the day, this may mean having to wait until morning or later.

2. Fly out of season

Flight delays were 40 minutes shorter in March and April 2022 than during the popular summer months, according to the Official Airline Guide. Fall 2022 has seen delays decrease again, but that could change as the holiday travel season heats up. Maybe skip the Christmas trip to Grandma’s and see her in February instead?

3. Book a non-stop flight

Yes, it’s usually more expensive, but cutting out a connection (or two) drastically reduces your chances of missing a flight.

4. Allow extra time for layovers

Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has 195 gates, the most in the world.

Aimin Tang/Getty Images

You might think that an hour is plenty for a connecting flight. But if the first leg of your trip is delayed, this time can be reduced to 30 minutes. And since most airlines close the doors of planes around 15 minutes before departure, you could easily miss your connection.

These are the busiest hubs during the Thanksgiving holiday of 2021, according to Statista.

  1. Hartsfield Jackson Airport (Atlanta)
  2. Dallas Fort Worth International
  3. Los Angeles International
  4. Denver International Airport
  5. Miami International Airport
  6. Chicago O’Hare International Airport
  7. Orlando International Airport
  8. Harry Reid International Airport (Las Vegas)
  9. John F. Kennedy International Airport (New York)
  10. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

5. Download your airline’s app

American Airlines app

Airline apps can help you navigate airports and find alternative flights.

Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Choose to receive flight notifications and start manually checking your flight status regularly at least 24 hours in advance. As soon as you learn that your flight has been delayed or cut, find out about transferring to another.

Many airline apps will also provide up-to-date information on your connecting flight’s departure gate and even how to get there.

6. Watch the weather at both airports

Start checking the weather at both locations a few days before your flight. Some airlines will reschedule your flight before a major weather front at no additional cost. If a storm is brewing, you might consider leaving a few days earlier or later or finding a different route.

7. These airports have the most delays and cancellations

According to a FlightAware analysis for CNN, these US hubs experienced the highest percentage of flight delays between May 27 and September 5, 2022.

  1. Chicago Midway International Airport: 37.7%
  2. Baltimore/Washington International Airport: 32.5%
  3. Orlando International Airport: 32.2%
  4. John F. Kennedy International Airport: 31%
  5. Harry Reid International Airport (Las Vegas): 31%
  6. Newark Liberty International Airport: 30.4%
  7. Dallas Love Field Airport: 29.1%
  8. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport: 28.3%
  9. Denver International Airport: 27.5%
  10. Charlotte Douglas International Airport: 27.2%

And these airports had the highest percentage of cancellations.

1. Newark Liberty International Airport (New Jersey): 6.7%
2. LaGuardia Airport (New York): 6.7%
3. Reagan National Airport (Washington, DC): 4.8%
4. Raleigh-Durham International Airport: 3.7%
5. Cleveland Hopkins International Airport: 3.5%
6. Pittsburgh International Airport: 3.4%
7. Boston Logan International Airport: 3%
8. John Glenn Columbus International Airport: 3%
9. Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport: 2.9%
10. Indianapolis International Airport: 2.9%

To learn more about travel check best luggage for vacation travel and learn the Google Maps and Google Flights features to use before and during your trip.

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