FlightStats Quantifies the Best Travel Hours During the Holidays. Tip: Morning Travel is Much Better

Travelers with afternoon flights are advised to be prepared for delay.

FlightStats, Inc. the industry-leading publisher of global day-of-travel data services and applications, shares some insights about managing your holiday travel.

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).

Graphic of Holiday Travel Delays

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

About FlightStats
FlightStats is a leading provider of day-of-travel data services and applications to the travel industry and traveling public. The company delivers real-time global flight tracking and airport data services that power many of the world’s most popular travel applications. The company also provides web and mobile applications to the FlightStats community, helping travelers to better manage their travel day. FlightStats’ data is viewed by millions of people each month, and the company is constantly evolving to offer the best worldwide alerting and tracking services to travelers, and the agencies and developers who serve them. For more information visit or follow us on Twitter @flightstats.