Travel over Thanksgiving can be the best of times. But it can also be the worst of times, and the determining factor is usually the weather. When weather cooperates, airlines and passengers seem to have the holiday travel drill down pretty well. It’s crowded, but we all get there, eventually, without too many delays…if the sun is out.
But toss in an early winter storm across the midwest or the Northeast, the remnants of a hurricane across the south, or a drenching Pacific storm on the west coast, and you have a recipe for travel disaster.
A company called AirHelp has tracked Thanksgiving travel stats over the last three years, and shows which airlines, airports and flights have the best and worst records. AirHelp says that it aggregated data from multiple sources, such as government agencies (like the DOT and FAA), airport databanks, flight-tracking vendors, historical resources, and commercial data brokers.
AirHelp is a company that helps travelers get compensation from airlines if their flights are delayed or canceled or if they’ve been denied boarding.
So what does the data show?
Based on airline performance over the last three Thanksgiving weeks, you are most likely to arrive on time for turkey if you fly Southwest, Hawaiian or Delta which collectively experienced delays about 25% of the time. But you might be late to the table when flying United, JetBlue or American, which had about 35% of their flights delayed. Allegiant was an outlier with a whopping 76% of its flights delayed during recent Thanksgiving weeks. (Spirit does not show up in this report because it only became a DOT reporting carrier in January of this year.)
If at all possible, try to avoid flying to, from or through Chicago, O’Hare. During Thanksgiving week 2014, just 51% of its flights were on time. In the same period, four of the five most delayed flights week started or ended there. New York Kennedy and Washington National ranked rather poorly, too.
The worst delays seem to occur in the days before Thanksgiving with Wednesday being the worst. For the lowest fares and the smallest chance for delays, fly on Thursday, Friday or Saturday.
AirHelp notes that winter storm Cato smacked the Northeast last Thanksgiving, which seriously affected delays, and they warn that the unpredictable impact of El Niño could snarl air travel this year, too, especially on the west coast.
Are you planning to fly during Thanksgiving week? Where to? Please leave your comments below.
NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: Global Entry gets more global + New York’s lowest ranked hotels +Best/worst hotel programs for awards + More flat seats