Best Travel Hours During The Holidays?
Travelers with afternoon flights are advised to be prepared for delays
Story by
12/19/2012 @ 11:17 AM

FlightStats compiled data from the last three holiday travel seasons of departures by the hour from the top US airports during a date range of December 15th through January 5th. The trend that stood out was that travelers were twice as likely to experience excessive delays between the hours of 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. When you pair excessive delays, with the fact that alternative travel options diminish as the day progresses, what you have is a situation where travelers will have significant challenges that they need to be prepared to address.

A review of 2009, 2010, and 2011 flight data yielded that 14.69% of departures had excessive delays (delay greater or 45 or more minutes), 12.50% of flights were late (15-29 minutes) and 6.67% were very late (30-44 minutes). During this time period only 63.29% of flights were on time.

If you compare on-time rates for the same date range but for the morning hours, from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., you have better on-time performance of 76.32%. Flight delays are markedly lower for this time period: only 7.15 % had excessive delays (45 or more minutes), 10.02% were late (15-29 minutes), and 4.14% were very late (30-44 minutes).

Travelers were twice as likely to experience excessive delays between the hours of 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. 

“Holiday traffic volumes are very high and the weather can present tough challenges for airports to manage,” said FlightStats President and Chairman of the Board, Jeff Kennedy. “For piece of mind, travelers should come to the airport informed about the conditions on the day of travel, make sure their friends and family have a way to be informed of flight changes, and they should pack any essentials they may need to be more comfortable should they be impacted by a delay.”

Here are some other handy holiday travel tips regardless of the time of day:

- Get to the airport at least 2 hours early

- Call the airline prior to departing for the airport

- Download a good flight status mobile app such as those offered by FlightStats, Kayak,

Worldmate, Tripcase or TripIt (all of which use FlightStats as a data source)

- Setup flight alerts for yourself, friends or family who may be picking you up at your destination in case of delay.

- If you have a long connection, research airport services in advance so you can plan shopping, meals or other activities while waiting

- Have copies of your travel information with you just in case

- Don’t forget that photo IDs for adults and passports make passing security easier when traveling with children even for domestic travel

- Make sure each bag has address information easily available both inside and outside

- If you are bringing presents make sure they are unwrapped

- Bring a good sense of humor


Use the FlightStats Global Tracker to keep track of real-time flight delay and cancellation trends


September 10, 2013
August 06, 2013
July 08, 2013
June 07, 2013
Seventeen out of 50 European airlines evaluated delivered on-time performance rates greater than 90%.

May 06, 2013
April 08, 2013
Flight cancellations persist at North American airports with late winter storms.

March 05, 2013
A mix of major and regional European airlines turned in strong performances in February. (NT) Binter Canarias took the top spot delivering 98.03% of its flights on time.

February 18, 2013
FlightStats recognizes operational excellence in five new categories including: Lowest Global Cancellations, Middle East and Africa Major Airlines, Pacific Major Airlines, South America Major Airlines, and Global Airline Alliances.

February 05, 2013
Japan Airlines was the only major international carrier to deliver over 90% of their flights on time.

January 07, 2013
December on-time performance down globally. Airlines had to contend with the negative effects from several winter storms during the 2012 holiday travel period.