Travel

Airports with the Worst Delays Before Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day weekend is just around the corner and airports will soon be packed with passengers eager to reach their holiday destinations. Crowded airports can often mean increased delay times, but which airports exhibit the worst delays before the weekend?

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?

Key Takeaways

  • 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?

Average Flight Delay in Minutes For the Thursday 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?

Number of Delayed Flights

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

AirportCityAverage Delay (Min)Late Aircraft (%)Carrier (%)NAS (%)Weather (%)Security (%)Rank
ABQAlbuquerque36.76916112039
ATLAtlanta33.12736342047
AUSAustin51.242212510010
BNANashville45.55421203021
BOSBoston49.14516371015
BWIBaltimore51.5481921909
CLECleveland43.95021261025
CLTCharlotte35.82730364042
CMHColumbus44.54718266024
CVGCincinnati52.1332736206
DALDallas34.74625207045
DCAWashington51.6452324608
DENDenver51.8521919807
DFWDallas/Fort Worth39.93827249032
DTWDetroit46.92833351018
EWRNewark50.94526225012
FLLFort Lauderdale53.5392335005
HOUHouston37.54133195038
IADWashington54.03018371304
IAHHouston51.23428324010
INDIndianapolis38.74520258035
JFKNew York62.6412924301
LASLas Vegas38.75024230035
LAXLos Angeles45.74428261020
LGANew York61.5492423302
MCIKansas City46.45581817019
MCOOrlando50.33226364013
MDWChicago35.44432203043
MEMMemphis39.34230206033
MIAMiami50.32729411013
MSPMinneapolis43.43029319026
MSYNew Orleans47.24222267017
OAKOakland33.04832161048
ONTOntario40.76117155031
ORDChicago41.94425263028
PDXPortland32.84123330049
PHLPhiladelphia56.74123241003
PHXPhoenix41.14432211030
PITPittsburgh34.74712327045
RDURaleigh/Durham45.04318316023
SANSan Diego41.44923251029
SATSan Antonio38.34730175037
SEASeattle31.73226392050
SFOSan Francisco43.44725260026
SJCSan Jose36.66518142040
SLCSalt Lake City36.63834251040
SMFSacramento39.06118172034
SNASanta Ana35.25118281044
STLSt. Louis45.54720265021
TPATampa48.24619312016

Delayed Flight Increases for Airports Before Memorial Day Weekend

AirportCityThursday PriorThursday Before Memorial Day WeekendPercent Change (%)
ABQAlbuquerque586512.1
ATLAtlanta6637147.7
AUSAustin11212410.7
BNANashville12315122.8
BOSBoston20431353.4
BWIBaltimore23529626
CLECleveland759020
CLTCharlotte21424815.9
CMHColumbus527034.6
CVGCincinnati395848.7
DALDallas17619812.5
DCAWashington14819129.1
DENDenver44760535.3
DFWWorth55761510.4
DTWDetroit19325230.6
EWRNewark29235521.6
FLLLauderdale14818927.7
HOUHouston1751792.3
IADWashington11314023.9
IAHHouston34639815
INDIndianapolis567126.8
JFKYork20329746.3
LASVegas3513828.8
LAXAngeles54260511.6
LGAYork20032261
MCICity10913826.6
MCOOrlando24027514.6
MDWChicago21827023.9
MEMMemphis344223.5
MIAMiami1551592.6
MSPMinneapolis17820314
MSYOrleans10011717
OAKOakland1381401.4
ONTOntario51569.8
ORDChicago61377326.1
PDXPortland9112031.9
PHLPhiladelphia12120871.9
PHXPhoenix32940322.5
PITPittsburgh516527.5
RDURaleigh/Durham8310425.3
SANDiego18120211.6
SATAntonio88946.8
SEASeattle20123918.9
SFOFrancisco40747717.2
SJCJose9611620.8
SLCCity13315214.3
SMFSacramento1051148.6
SNAAna93963.2
STLLouis13915813.7
TPATampa1431483.5

Methodology

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.

David Ascienzo

David Ascienzo, Ph.D., is a Data Scientist at ValuePenguin. He previously was a Doctoral Researcher in Physics at the City University of New York (CUNY). He holds a Ph.D. in Physics from the CUNY Graduate Center.

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