Thanksgiving 2016 Holiday Air Travel Forecast
and airlines to avoid
Flight delays are inevitable over the Thanksgiving holiday, but a look at the track record for some destinations, airports and carriers might have you rethinking your plans.
RewardExpert analyzed Department of Transportation flight data from the past five years to give travelers an idea of where the most delays have been reported and which airlines were responsible. This report looked at the on-time performance of the top 10 domestic airlines at the 45 busiest airports in the U.S. over Thanksgiving. We also looked at the best and worst days to travel during the five days before and after the holiday.
Best and worst days to travel over Thanksgiving
- If you’re planning on getting home early to help prep for the big feast, your best bet is to travel on Monday to avoid delays.
- There’s a silver lining for last-minute flyers. Thanksgiving Day itself has the least reported delays, so flying home that morning will likely get you to the table in time for a late dinner.
- The day after the holiday is the best day to fly home, and the chances of getting delayed increase as the weekend progresses.
On-time performance ranking of the 10 major U.S. airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines was the best for on-time performance during previous holidays. It’s head and shoulders above the rest, reporting nearly 95% of its flights arriving and departing in a timely fashion.
- Out of the three major carriers, Delta leads the pack and is just shy of 89% of flights reporting on-time. United and American Airlines fall in the middle of the ranking, but are neck-to-neck with 83.3% and 82.6% of flights on-time.
- Budget carriers Southwest and Frontier Airlines close out the rankings as the only two out of the ten analyzed airlines underneath the 80th percentile for on-time performance
Best and worst airports for on-time performance over Thanksgiving
- If Hawaii is on your radar, you’re both lucky and in luck when it comes to avoiding delays. Nearly 92% of flights in and out of Honolulu International Airport were on time in previous years.
- Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport had the second best record for timely holiday flights and could serve as an efficient hub if you need to book a connecting regional flight.
- Bay Area travelers beware: San Francisco International Airport has the worst on-time record for Thanksgiving. Only three-quarters of its flights have historically been on time during the holiday travel period.
If your flight is delayed or cancelled during the holidays, look in your wallet for relief
If your plans are written in stone, meaning the in-laws are expecting you on a particular day or you’ve already booked your ticket, we offer some tips for credit card holders in dealing with delays and cancellations in case they happen.
- See if you have a credit card with lounge access. Some even allow for complimentary companion access, as well
- Check the insurance benefits on your credit card to see if you are covered for trip delay or cancellation
- You might have concierge service that can help you rebook your flight if it’s cancelled
Source: Data was collected from the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
On-time evaluation: A flight is considered on time if it takes off or lands within 15 minutes after the scheduled time shown in the carriers' reservations system. The data assesses both arrivals and departures taking into account gate-to-takeoff times and landing-to-gate times.
Data range: RewardExpert analyzed data from the 11 days surrounding Thanksgiving (the holiday itself +/-5 days) in the years 2011-2015