Holiday Travel 2023: Riskiest Airports for Flight Delays 

USA Airports research from agamble com

From bad weather to busy terminals, booking a trip during the holidays can be a gamble.  

Despite all the preparation, travelers face the unpredictability of flight delays and cancellations. 

But which airports pose the greatest risk for travel disruptions during the bustling holiday season? 

To find out, took an in-depth look at flight punctuality data across the United States, specifically focusing on departures during the holiday season. We analyzed flight record data provided by the Bureau of Transportation to determine which airports are the riskiest to depart from during the holidays. 

Our study ranks the top 50 largest airports within major cities across the U.S. based on their track record of delayed and canceled flights during the holiday season. Additionally, we also determined which airports have the best punctuality and on-time flight arrivals. 


  • Among the 25 airports facing the most delayed or canceled flights during the holiday season, 4 are in Texas, 4 in Florida, and 4 in California. 
  • Chicago Midway International and Orlando International top the list, with more than 4 in 10 flights being canceled or delayed at each airport during the holidays. 
  • Seeking on-time departures? You’ll have better luck at Charlotte Douglas International, Washington Dulles International, or Detroit Metro Wayne County Airport, which are home to the most on-time departures during the holidays.  

Which airports have the most delayed flights during the holidays?  

Worst Airports in America

Holiday headaches can be found in droves at Chicago Midway International, where an icy runway results in glacial departure times: 42.9% of flights from Thanksgiving through New Year’s were dropped or delayed last year.  

When the weather in Chicago gets even colder after the Thanksgiving holiday, over half (54.3%) of flights during December and early January holiday period were canceled or delayed. 

While Orlando International Airport is a gateway to the “happiest place on earth”, transportation magic is often in short supply. MCO occupies the No. 2 spot on our list, with difficulties arising primarily around the Thanksgiving holiday period.  

Elsewhere, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International, with access to Miami’s sunny shores, follows close behind for holiday travel woes.  

Of the 25 airports struggling to provide timely departures, 4 are based in Texas, 4 are based in Florida, and 4 are based in California, showing that the inclement weather the season brings isn’t always the biggest concern.  

Top 10 Worst Airports during the Holidays  

  1. Chicago Midway International (Chicago)
    • Delay and Cancellation Rate: 42.9% between Thanksgiving and the New Year.
  2. Orlando International (Orlando)
    • Delay and Cancellation Rate: 27.1% during the Thanksgiving holiday period.
    • Post-Thanksgiving Delay and Cancellation Rate: 50% from December through New Year’s.
  3. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International (Fort Lauderdale)
    • Cancellations: 3,477 flights canceled out of 8,422 scheduled during the 2022 winter holidays.
  4. William P. Hobby (Houston)
    • Cancellation Rate: 41% throughout the holiday season last year.
  5. Dallas Love Field (Dallas)
    • Delay and Cancellation Rate: 40% during the holiday season.
    • Thanksgiving Delay and Cancellation Rate: 20.7%.
  6. Harry Reid International (Las Vegas)
    • Cancellations and Delays: 5,266 flights canceled and 1,130 delayed during the holiday season.
  7. Metro Oakland International (Oakland)
    • Delay and Cancellation Rate: 39.1% across the holiday season.
  8. Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood (Baltimore)
    • Delay and Cancellation Rate: 38.8% across Thanksgiving and winter holidays.
  9. Tampa International (Tampa)
    • Holiday Season Cancellations: 2,224 flights canceled out of 7,103 scheduled.
    • Holiday Season Delays: 493 flights delayed.
  10. San Antonio International (San Antonio)
    • Delay and Cancellation Rate: 38.2% of holiday flights.

#1. Chicago Midway International: Chicago 

If you’re departing from Chicago Midway International, hopefully it’s to a warm destination because you’ll need some fresh air after discovering that your flight has been canceled. MDW experiences the highest percentage of delayed and canceled flights of any airport in the country, with a whopping 42.9% of all flights either delayed or canceled between Thanksgiving and the New Year.  

#2. Orlando International: Orlando 

Despite year-round favorable flying conditions and proximity to one of the world’s largest theme park destinations, Orlando International Airport experiences more departure issues than any other U.S. airport across the Thanksgiving holiday period, during which a full 27.1% of flights were either delayed or canceled. Cancellations represent the lion’s share of this figure – in 2022, the airport dropped 1,369 flights around turkey day. Throughout the entire holiday season (Thanksgiving through New Year’s), 42% of flights were delayed or canceled at Orlando International. And post-Thanksgiving, an incredible 50% of flights were delayed or dropped from December through New Year’s.  

#3. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International: Fort Lauderdale 

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport caters to millions of international and domestic passengers annually, serving as a popular gateway to the Caribbean and Latin America. But prepare to wait for your umbrella drink – amid the 2022 winter holidays, FLL canceled 3,477 of the season’s 8,422 scheduled flights.  

#4. William P. Hobby: Houston Delay and Cancellation Rate

The first airport on the list servicing strictly domestic flights, Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport has experienced steady growth in passenger numbers since switching its focus to smooth internal travel. But there’s room to improve on their new purpose: 41% of departures were canceled throughout the holiday season last year. 

#5. Dallas Love Field: Dallas 

Formerly a military training base, Dallas Love Field Airport guests should adopt a fighting spirit – they’ll need it if they end up in the 40% of holiday travelers whose departure is delayed or canceled. Thanksgiving isn’t a shining moment here, either; 20.7% of all flights are delayed or dropped surrounding the holiday. 

#6. Harry Reid International: Las Vegas 

The newly-renamed Harry Reid International Airport has all the glitz and glamor you’d expect from a Las Vegas airport, and obviously, slot machines. You might end up playing a round or two if you’re a passenger on one of the 5,266 canceled or 1,130 delayed trips on their holiday departure schedule. Remember, you can always play at online casinos as long as you reside in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or Michigan.

#7. Metro Oakland International: Oakland 

Offering flights to destinations in Mexico and Europe as well as the standard array of domestic connections, Metro Oakland International is regularly used by residents across the Bay Area thanks to its BART accessibility. Unfortunately, the metro system might be the smoothest leg of departing from OAK – 39.1% of departures are either delayed or canceled across the whole holiday season. 

#8. Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood: Baltimore 

Named after Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court, BWI has a legacy to uphold. And while there’s not one major issue facing the airport, their track record presents a grab bag of disappointments, with 38.8% of all flights either delayed or canceled across the Thanksgiving and winter holidays.  

#9. Tampa International: Tampa 

Tampa International consistently ranks among top airports for customer satisfaction each year, with quirky, feel-good perks like rotating art exhibitions and a flamingo crew to greet you in the baggage area. Nevertheless, the holiday season brings logistical chaos; out of 7,103 scheduled flights, 493 were delayed, and 2,224 were canceled in the past season.  

#10. San Antonio International: San Antonio 

A popular hub for flights headed to Mexican beachfront all-inclusives, San Antonio International begs the question, “What’s worse than a worm in your tequila?”. The answer can be swiftly provided by any number of stranded passengers – 38.2% of holiday flights scheduled to lift off from SAT are delayed or canceled. 

Airports with the Most On-Time Flight Departures  

The research presents a counter-intuitive point: higher flight volume does not necessarily result in more logistical problems. On the contrary, some of America’s highest-volume international airports, including Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (28,091 scheduled holiday flights) and Charlotte Douglas International (18,187 scheduled holiday flights), are most on-time.  

Chicago O’Hare International also makes the list; despite a chart-topping number of canceled holiday flights (5,728), those that do depart are rarely delayed.  

If you want to be sure your holiday travel will go off without a hitch, consider a trip to the Smithsonian – Washington Dulles International and Ronald Regan Washington National occupy spots No. 2 and No. 4 on the list, respectively. You have at least a 73.6% chance of leaving on time out of these locations.  


To determine our ranking, we analyzed airline on-time departure statistics and delay causes from the 50 largest airports across the country based on passenger volume. Statistics were analyzed during the holiday travel season from Nov. 18, 2022, to Jan. 4, 2023. Delay causes include air carrier delay, weather, security, national aviation system delay, late-arriving aircraft, diverted flights as well as canceled flights. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics defines the Thanksgiving travel period from Nov. 18 – 29, and the winter holiday travel period from Dec. 15 - Jan. 4, 2023. Our analysis includes data from both holiday travel periods.  

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Airline Service Quality Performance 

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