Halloween is in the rear-view and Christmas still weeks away. It’s time for the holiday spotlight to shine on Thanksgiving! Family, football, and tables piled high with turkey and mashed potatoes represent some of the best parts of the holiday. But, the one key part of Thanksgiving that many people around the country dread is travel.

Many travelers face a host of potential headaches and annoyances, such as long lines, flight delays, and even cancellations. These can significantly affect their holiday plans. As we have done in the past, we want to ease that worry. Here’s the lowdown on some of the best and worst airports and airlines for Thanksgiving travel.

To rank the best and worst airports and airlines during Thanksgiving, we dove into 2018 government data. Specifically, all the departing flights at the busiest airports across the country. We only examined airlines, airports, and routes where at least 100 flights took place between November 17 to November 30, 2018 for our graphics and data.

Top of the Mountain

Best Airports for Thanksgiving Travel

Those flying out from Alaska and Hawaii can be thankful, especially if they’re traveling inside the contiguous United States for Thanksgiving. That’s because the top four airports with the fewest delays all come from outside the US mainland.

Rounding out the top five airports with the lowest percentage of holiday flights delayed is Tennessee’s McGhee Tyson Airport. It’s located outside of Knoxville with just 22% of flights delayed. Among the top 10 airports with the fewest delays last year was Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Only 25% of its flights experienced delays and less than 1% were canceled. This despite being far busier than most of the other airlines on this list. 

Bottom of the Barrel

Worst Airports for Thanksgiving Travel

Texas and California can take pride in being some of America’s biggest states. But, they also feature some of the biggest problems for travelers. Of the top 10 airports with the highest percentage of flights delayed around Thanksgiving, five are in California and two are in Texas. This means that 70% of the worst places to fly from are in just those two states.  

Most of the worst airports for Thanksgiving travel are in California and Texas. But, the absolute worst overall is in the Midwest. Chicago’s Midway International Airport had an astounding 57% of flights delayed around Thanksgiving in 2018. Midway also led the way for flight cancellations, with 3.07% of flights meeting that fate. For context, the airport with the second-most delays, Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport, had 5% fewer delays.

Best and Worst Airlines for Thanksgiving Travel

Tips For Avoiding Delays

With Thanksgiving just weeks away, anyone who has yet to book their plane tickets would be wise to get it officially done soonest. If the previous sentence applies to you, we have some tips and things to consider when setting up your travel plans.  

First, Spirit Airlines is known for being a budget airline with low ticket prices propped up by a bevy of additional fees. But, their track record of on-time flights makes them worthy of consideration. They were tied with Delta as the nationwide carriers with the fewest delayed flights at just 28% in 2018. Just like last year, Southwest finishes at the bottom of this list with 47% of their flights delayed. But, their average delay time of just 11 minutes is an improvement from 2017 when it was 19 minutes.  

Best Days for Thanksgiving Travel

It might seem odd, but according to the data, Thanksgiving Day was the best bet for traveling with only 20% of flights experiencing a delay. Great news for any procrastinators out there!

Worst Days for Thanksgiving Travel

Per our research, five days and two days before Thanksgiving are among the worst times to travel home. This is because more than 35% of flights on those days are delayed. When it comes to leaving after the holiday, four days after Thanksgiving is the worst. Almost 50% of flights are delayed, and 7% of flights canceled entirely.  

Best Routes for Thanksgiving Travel

Pensacolians trying to get to Atlanta for Thanksgiving can rest easy knowing only 14% of flights on that route are delayed around the holidays. That same number applies to anyone traveling from Fayetteville, Arkansas to Dallas, Texas. Or, anyone going from Detroit, Michigan to Washington, D.C. These routes were the most reliable for passengers around Thanksgiving, according to the data. 

Worst Routes for Thanksgiving Travel

However, anyone going from Dallas to San Antonio, Chicago to Denver, Burbank to San Francisco, or San Francisco to Honolulu met much worse conditions. All of those routes experienced flight cancellations at a clip in excess of 60% in 2018. The average delay for each was over 10 minutes on average.

No matter where you’re coming from, where you’re going, or how you get there, we want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at Treetopia! As a treat, here’s more Thanksgiving trivia for you.

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