There’s no place like home for the holidays. Millions of people will be using planes, trains, and automobiles to get to their loved ones. With Christmas only weeks away, most travelers have finalized their travel plans. This is especially true if they involve flying.

Of course, even the best-laid plans get disrupted by long lines, travel delays, and cancellations. These can put a real damper on the festive mood of holiday revelers. As we did last year, we want to put travelers at ease by giving them the lowdown on some of the best and worst airports and airlines for Christmas travel.

We accessed government data from 2018. We analyzed every departing flight from major airports all around the United States. Read on to learn what the best and worst airports and airlines are during Christmas!

I’ll be Home for Christmas

Map of best airports for Christmas air travel

Airports in the Midwest were among the best in the country at avoiding holiday travel delays in 2018. This despite their reputation for cold and snowy conditions during winter. Of the top 10 airports with the lowest percentage of delays, four were in snowy states such as Michigan, Ohio, and Minnesota. Airports in the snowy locales of Anchorage, Alaska, and Washington, D.C. also made the list of best performing airports. This means that majority of the top 10 airports contend with less-than-ideal weather around Christmas time. This makes their low level of delays all the more impressive.

Waiting is the Hardest Part

Map of worst airports of Christmas air travel

The worst airport for holiday travel, Chicago’s Midway International, is also in the Midwest. Also, our study found that holiday passengers in the Southwest ran into delays at one of the highest clips in the country. Of the top 10 airports that experienced the most delays in 2018, three were in Texas and another was in New Mexico. This means that 40% of the list consisted of Southwestern airports. Adding in two Californian airports bumps that number up to 60% for the worst airports for holiday travel being in the West or Southwest. These parts of the country have more temperate weather conditions in December.

Best and Worst Options for Flying Friendly and Festive Skies

Best and worst airlines for Christmas air travel within the U.S.

Santa may have his Christmas flight schedule perfected, but the same can’t be said of airlines across the country. Still, some have proven themselves better than others in avoiding delays.

Delta and United Airlines were the best at getting people where they needed to be on time in 2018. Only 33% of their holiday flights experienced delays. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Frontier and Southwest were the worst at avoiding delays. A 50% and 64% of their flights experienced delays last Christmas season. They had the only airlines that encountered delays with over half of the flights.

When to Plan Your Christmas Travel

Best days for Christmas travel by air

Travel is easier on some days than others. We looked at specific days around the holidays from last year to see which ones saw the most and least amount of delays.

There’s good news for those of you who like to wait until the last minute to fly. Christmas Day and Christmas Eve are the days with the lowest percentages of flights delayed at 21% and 25%, respectively. No other days saw less than 30% of flights delayed for Christmas travelers.

Worst days for Christmas travel

Leaving your family after the holidays is hard enough. Our analysis found that last year, there was an added layer of misery for many airline passengers. Three of the five worst days for holiday travel were two, three, and four days after Christmas. Passengers had to contend with delays for up to 57% of flights. On two of those days over 2% of flights were canceled entirely. It might be wise for this year’s travelers to save up a few vacation days, just in case!

Fly Here, Not There

Listing of best routes for Christmas air travel

Beyond specific airports, airlines, and days, there are some flight routes that produce headaches. Then, there are some that fly by like a dream. We compiled data on all routes that were flown more than 100 times during the 2018 holiday season. This allowed us to determine the best and worst routes to travel for Christmas.

Anyone flying from Las Vegas to Houston can rest easy, as less than 13% of flights along that route experienced delays. Even when they did the average delay time was just six minutes. Four other routes experienced less than 20% flight delays. This included both directions between Minneapolis and Detroit. These routes provided clear skies for passengers and flight operators alike.

Worst routes to travel during the holidays

On the other hand, we found some flights that caused total Christmas chaos. Nearly 80% of flights from Chicago to Denver experienced delays last year. The average delay length stretched to 23 minutes. Another route experienced over 70% of flights delayed. For instance, 72.57% of flights on the Dallas/Fort Worth to Miami trek experienced delays. The average delay length exceeded 30 minutes.

No matter where you’re from or where you’re going this holiday season, we hope this post helps with your travel plans! For those staying put this Christmas, share this guide with your friends and family who may need it. A very Merry Christmas and safe travels from Treetopia

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