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Traveling for Thanksgiving? Best Airports for Navigation During the Holidays

Traveling for the holidays is stressful enough without also weathering sudden flight cancellations and delays. Best airports for avoiding unwanted surprises …

by Business Traveler

November 21, 2019

For those who may want to avoid spending their Thanksgiving dinner at the boarding gate, munching on a tuna sandwich and waiting for news about their delayed, if not cancelled, flight, researchers at InsureMyTrip compiled a list of the top 75 US airports that have the least chance of having holiday mishaps this season.


• Hawaii airports are considered the least stressful followed by Salt Lake City (SLC) and Atlanta (ATL).

• It is forecast that New York’s LaGuardia (LGA) will no longer be most stressful for travelers this 2019 Thanksgiving. LGA has improved its cancellation rate this year. The airport previously reported the highest percentage of canceled flights in the country for both 2018 and 2017 (winter storms a factor).

• Chicago airports have endured a rough patch with on-time performance issues. Chicago O’Hare International (ORD) and Chicago Midway International (MDW) are currently experiencing the highest cancellation rates in the country, based on available 2019 data. Those numbers don’t yet include last week’s snow storms which grounded over 1,000 flights.

• Flights scheduled for departure between 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm are more susceptible to delays and cancellations.

• If a flight is canceled, most airlines will rebook travelers on the next available flight at no additional charge. However, airlines are not required to reimburse travelers for losses incurred as a result of a canceled flight.

List of the least stressful airports this Thanksgiving, based on flight cancellation data collected through the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics:

1          Honolulu, HI: Daniel K Inouye International (LOWEST)

2          Kahului, HI: Kahului Airport

3          Salt Lake City, UT: Salt Lake City International

4          Atlanta, GA: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International

5          Boise, ID: Boise Air Terminal

6          Portland, OR: Portland International

7          Spokane, WA: Spokane International

8          San Juan, PR: Luis Munoz Marin International

9          Seattle, WA: Seattle/Tacoma International

10        Minneapolis, MN: Minneapolis-St Paul International

11        Detroit, MI: Detroit Metro Wayne County

12        Anchorage, AK: Ted Stevens Anchorage International

13        Los Angeles, CA: Los Angeles International

14        Santa Ana, CA: John Wayne Airport-Orange County

15        Fort Myers, FL: Southwest Florida International

16        Miami, FL: Miami International

17        Las Vegas, NV: McCarran International

18        Albuquerque, NM: Albuquerque International Sunport

19        Tucson, AZ: Tucson International

20        Phoenix, AZ: Phoenix Sky Harbor International

21        Sacramento, CA: Sacramento International

22        Fort Lauderdale, FL: Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International

23        Reno, NV: Reno/Tahoe International

24        Austin, TX: Austin – Bergstrom International

25        San Antonio, TX: San Antonio International

26        Tampa, FL: Tampa International

27        Houston, TX: George Bush Intercontinental/Houston

28        Ontario, CA: Ontario International

29        San Diego, CA: San Diego International

30        New York, NY: John F. Kennedy International

31        Washington, DC: Washington Dulles International

32        San Jose, CA: Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International

33        Cincinnati, OH: Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International

34        Raleigh/Durham, NC: Raleigh-Durham International

35        Nashville, TN: Nashville International

36        West Palm Beach/Palm Beach, FL: Palm Beach International

37        Charlotte, NC: Charlotte Douglas International

38        Knoxville, TN: McGhee Tyson

39        Orlando, FL: Orlando International

40        Louisville, KY: Louisville Muhammad Ali International

41        Pittsburgh, PA: Pittsburgh International

42        Denver, CO: Denver International

43        New Orleans, LA: Louis Armstrong New Orleans International

44        Oakland, CA: Metropolitan Oakland International

45        Jacksonville, FL: Jacksonville International

46        Hartford, CT: Bradley International

47        Omaha, NE: Eppley Airfield

48        Oklahoma City, OK: Will Rogers World

49        Indianapolis, IN: Indianapolis International

50        Columbus, OH: John Glenn Columbus International

51        Boston, MA: Logan International

52        Kansas City, MO: Kansas City International

53        Memphis, TN: Memphis International

54        San Francisco, CA: San Francisco International

55        Richmond, VA: Richmond International

56        Birmingham, AL: Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International

57        Cleveland, OH: Cleveland-Hopkins International

58        St. Louis, MO: St Louis Lambert International

59        Providence, RI: Theodore Francis Green State

60        Milwaukee, WI: General Mitchell International

61        Charleston, SC: Charleston AFB/International

62        Philadelphia, PA: Philadelphia International

63        Washington, DC: Ronald Reagan Washington National

64        Baltimore, MD: Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall

65        Dallas/Fort Worth, TX: Dallas/Fort Worth International

66        Norfolk, VA: Norfolk International

67        Grand Rapids, MI: Gerald R. Ford International

68        New York, NY: LaGuardia

69        Dallas, TX: Dallas Love Field

70        Buffalo, NY: Buffalo Niagara International

71        Burbank, CA: Bob Hope

72        Newark, NJ: Newark Liberty International

73        Houston, TX: William P Hobby

74        Chicago, IL: Chicago O’Hare International

75        Chicago, IL: Chicago Midway International (HIGHEST)

Flight cancellation policies vary by airline and circumstance. When an airline cancels a flight, most will try to rebook passengers on the next available flight. However, passengers need to know that airlines are not required to reimburse travelers for losses incurred as a result of a canceled flight, such as prepaid, non-refundable:

• Hotel room

• All-inclusive vacation or resort

• A cruise

• A tour or safari

• Concert or entertainment tickets

Travelers concerned about delays should be aware of the following:

• Generally, early departures are less likely to be delayed.

• Book a non-stop flight (no stops).

• When booking, ask the airline about the on-time performance percentage for an individual flight.

• Closer to departure, check real-time airport data. This will provide timely information on weather concerns or air traffic delays.

• Be aware of “creeping delays.” This is when an airline continues to push back a departure time it can sometimes be extended for hours or lead to a cancellation.

• If a flight is delayed, try to learn the reason why to better gauge if the flight is in jeopardy of being canceled. Reasons for delays may include maintenance, fueling, crew issues, weather, previous flight with the same aircraft arrived late, causing the present flight to depart late, or security issues.

• Some flights will be delayed on the tarmac before or after take-off. As a general rule, DOT prohibits flights to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours.

Rankings were based on the flight cancellation rate per airport. Airports on the list also reported 14,000 or more scheduled flights for 2019 thus far. Researchers also noted other factors, like hurricanes and winter storms, led some airports to report a high number of canceled flights earlier in the year.