Memorial Day weekend is just around the corner and airports will soon be packed with passengers eager to reach their holiday destinations. By looking through recent airport performance data provided by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), we found that the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend is the busiest day before Memorial Day for the majority of airports. Crowded airports can lead to an increase in delays, but which airports tend to have the worst delays leading up to Memorial Day weekend?
- John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York experiences the worst delay times before Memorial Day weekend, with LaGuardia Airport in New York coming in close second.
- Philadelphia International Airport in Pennsylvania experiences the most drastic increase in delayed flights before Memorial Day weekend.
- Security delays accounted for less than 1% of the departure delay times in this study.
Which Airports Have the Worst Departure Delays Before Memorial Day Weekend?
John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York experiences the worst delay times before Memorial Day weekend, with LaGuardia Airport in New York coming in close second. Both airports exhibit average delay times of 61 – 63 minutes. In contrast, Seattle–Tacoma International Airport in Washington and Portland International Airport in Oregon experience the least severe delays, averaging only 31 - 33 minutes.
Which Airports Have the Greatest Increase in Delayed Flights Near Memorial Day Weekend?
To determine which airports had the greatest surge in delayed flights, we compared the total number of delayed flights, which includes departures and arrivals, for the Thursday directly before Memorial Day weekend to the Thursday prior. We found that Philadelphia International Airport in Pennsylvania experiences the most drastic increase in delayed flights before Memorial Day weekend, increasing from 121 to 208 with a near 72% increase. The second largest increase in delayed flights occurs at LaGuardia Airport in New York, where the number of flights increases from 200 to 322 for a 61% increase. The third largest increase takes place at Boston Logan International Airport in Massachusetts, rising from 204 to 313 for a near 53% increase. On the other hand, we found that Oakland International Airport in California, William P. Hobby Airport in Texas, and Miami International Airport in Florida accounted for the three smallest increases before the Memorial Day weekend, each increasing by less than 3%.
Reasons For Flight Delays
There are five common causes for flight delays reported by the BTS: carrier delays, late aircraft delays, National Airspace System (NAS) delays, security delays, and weather delays. Carrier delays are typically governed by the airline you're flying with and are influenced by factors such as baggage loading, overbooking, aircraft cleaning and maintenance. Aircraft arrival delays are another cause for departure delays and occur when, as the name suggests, an aircraft scheduled for take off arrives late to the airport. NAS delays are influenced by air traffic and issues at air traffic control. Security delays are typically the result of aircraft re-boarding due to a safety issue, terminal evacuations in response to a threat or police investigation, and issues during security screening such as faulty equipment or long waiting lines. Lastly, weather delays are due to atmospheric conditions, such as storms and high wings, which can create hazardous flying conditions.
From our study, we found that greatest percentage of delay times can be attributed to late aircraft arrivals. Departure and arrival delays are strongly correlated, and one late arrival can delay the schedule of a given aircraft across multiple flights. It may be tempting to blame airport security, but on average security delays accounted for less than 1% of the departure delay times in this study.
What Can Travelers Do About a Delay?
Minor delays, such as those which last a few hours or don't cause you to miss a flight connection, typically offer passengers little opportunity for recourse. Passengers may be able to qualify for a number of benefits such as expense reimbursement, subsidized flights, or direct compensation if their trip is significantly delayed. For instance, Travel insurance will typically offer reimbursement for expenses you incur during a delay and may even cover the cost of a new ticket. But these benefits often won't become available until a trip has been delayed at least 6 to 12 hours. Similarly, airlines may reimburse some refreshment expenses during long delays or provide vouchers, but these are limited and may require you to waive the ability to seek further compensation. You may receive a greater payout by saving your boarding pass and receipts, then contacting the airline to file a claim after your travel.
Thursday Departures Before Memorial Day Weekend
|Airport||City||Average Delay (Min)||Late Aircraft (%)||Carrier (%)||NAS (%)||Weather (%)||Security (%)||Rank|
|SLC||Salt Lake City||36.6||38||34||25||1||0||40|
Delayed Flight Increases for Airports Before Memorial Day Weekend
|Airport||City||Thursday Prior||Thursday Before Memorial Day Weekend||Percent Change (%)|
Data on airport flight delays was acquired from The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). In order to calculate average delay times on days leading up to Memorial Day weekend, we collected recent flight data for May from 2013 to 2017 and focused on the top 50 airports by flight number. Please note that this study only focuses on delayed domestic flights.