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Spring Break Travel 2024: Riskiest Airports for Flight Delays

spring travel research agamble

From delayed departures to canceled flights, spring break dreams of fun and sun can swiftly transform into terminal naps and exorbitantly priced airport drinks.

But which airports pose the greatest risk for travel disruptions for spring breakers?

To answer this question, aGamble.com evaluated flight departure data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics across the months of March and April – the most common window of spring break travel. Our findings reveal notable differences among the nation’s top 50 largest airports, highlighting distinct trends in travel turbulence throughout the spring break season. 

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Cities in Florida claim 3 of the top 10 spots for most flight disruptions during spring break, including Fort Lauderdale International (1), Orlando International (3), and Miami International (6).
  • A mix of delays and cancellations thwart travelers at Baltimore/Washington International (4), Chicago Midway International (5), and Denver International (9).
  • If you’re looking to increase your chances for an on-time departure, Pittsburgh International is your best bet, with more than 83% of flights departing on schedule during the spring break travel season. 

Which airports have the most delayed flights during spring break?

Insert Worst Airports Spring Break Travel

When it comes to spring break, thinking of Florida more as a pair of dice than a paradise is wise – three of the top 10 riskiest airports for spring break travel are situated in the Sunshine State. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) claims the dubious title of No. 1 worst airport for spring break travel, grappling with both flight delays and cancellations. FLL is closely followed by Orlando International Airport (3), and Miami International Airport (6).

Some airports on our list deal with one metric throwing a spanner in their flight schedule. For example, Las Vegas’ Harry Reid International (2) experiences notable delays throughout March and April yet maintains a low cancellation rate. Across the nation, escaping from New York proves as daunting as Kurt Russell warned – both Newark Liberty International (7) and John F. Kennedy International (10) struggle with high cancellation rates, but delays are on the lower side.

Then there are airports contending with a mixed bag of cancellations and delays: Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall (4), Chicago Midway International (5), and Denver International (9) demonstrate that a problem with both metrics hinders each airport’s overall departure performance.

Top 10 Worst Airports for Spring Break Travel 2024

1. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International (Fort Lauderdale)

  • Delay rate: 34.87%
  • Cancellation rate: 4.63%

2. Harry Reid International (Las Vegas)

  • Delay rate: 31.44%
  • Cancellation rate: 1.47%

3. Orlando International (Orlando)

  • Delay rate: 31.06%
  • Cancellation rate: 1.52%

4. Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall (Baltimore)

  • Delay rate: 31.26%
  • Cancellation rate: 1.22%

5. Chicago Midway International (Chicago)

  • Delay rate: 29.04%
  • Cancellation rate: 1.32%

6. Miami International (Miami)

  • Delay rate: 29.22%
  • Cancellation rate: 0.88%

7. Newark Liberty International (Newark)

  • Delay rate: 25.81%
  • Cancellation rate: 2.53%

8. Dallas/Fort Worth International (Dallas)

  • Delay rate: 25.11%
  • Cancellation rate: 2.49%

9. Denver International (Denver)

  • Delay rate: 26.51%
  • Cancellation rate: 1.04%

10. John F. Kennedy International (New York)

  • Delay rate: 25.06%
  • Cancellation rate: 2.23%

1. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International: Fort Lauderdale, FL

The national capital of relaxing and recharging, Fort Lauderdale attracts spring breakers with its beautiful shoreline, Everglades airboat tours, and beachfront bars. Unfortunately, getting there (and back) might undo the destination’s calming effects – 39.5% of departures from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport are delayed, and 4.6% of flights are canceled, giving it the highest disturbance rate on both metrics of any U.S. airport during spring break.

2. Harry Reid International: Las Vegas, NV

If you’ve ever taken the Friday night flight into Las Vegas, you already know the process of getting to Sin City is a journey. But getting out might be even more harrowing – only 67.1% of flights depart Vegas’ Harry Reid International Airport on time, and 465 flights are canceled across March and April, so if you get yourself into a bind, you might not be able to make a quick exit.

3. Orlando International: Orlando, FL

While your kids might be overjoyed at the prospect of permanently settling in Mickey and Minnie’s hometown, it probably wasn’t in your plans. Unfortunately, you might have to be flexible – across March and April, 32.6% of flights out of Orlando International are delayed, and 436 flights are canceled altogether.

4. Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall: Baltimore, MD

Thurgood Marshall, BWI’s namesake, successfully argued Brown v. Board of Education, was the first African American appointed to the Supreme Court and left a legacy of legal scholarship and human rights advocacy. Unfortunately, he doesn’t run this airport, and if you’re flying out of BWI over spring break, there’s a 31.3% chance your flight will be delayed, and a 1.2% chance your flight will be dropped entirely.

5. Chicago Midway International: Chicago, IL

While Chicago might seem an unconventional spring break destination, those who live near the airport are often itching for a change of scenery after being shut inside all winter. Unfortunately, many escapees end up ordering their tequila sunrise in Midway’s terminal – 30% of spring break departures are either delayed or canceled.

6. Miami International: Miami, FL

Florida’s busiest airport, MIA services an average of 17,414 flights across March and April, but only 69.9% of those flights depart on time, meaning there’s a chance your flight will be one of 5,089 that remains grounded past “go” time. The upshot: less than one percent of flights are out-and-out canceled, so you’ll probably get where you’re going. Just bring your Margaritaville mindset.

7. Newark Liberty International: Newark, NJ

You’d think one of America’s oldest airfields would have this whole flight thing down to a science, but amid the spring break season, EWR fumbles regularly. Between 6,354 flight delays (25.8%), and 579 canceled flights (2.3%), travelers play a game of roulette just to get the relaxation underway.

8. Dallas/Fort Worth International: Dallas, TX

If your travel plans include a departure from Dallas, you better start practicing your “yeehaw!” Your time in D-Town might stretch on for a while. Over 1,100 flights are dropped at Dallas International across the months of March and April, and if that figure isn’t bracing enough, 11,413 (25.1%) of the airport’s flights are delayed amid spring break travel.

9. Denver International: Denver, CO

Of every airport on our top 10 list, Denver manages the most flight operations, with 46,429 flights departing across the months of March and April alone. Of these, 12,308 flights are delayed (26.5%), and 483 are canceled. The upshot: DEN is widely-celebrated for its spacious atriums, murals, and points of architectural interest – at least there’s something to do!

10. John F. Kennedy International: New York, NY

LaGuardia enthusiasts, unite! JFK International isn’t the worst airport when it comes to flight delays – 25.1% of its 23,796 flights throughout the spring break season are delayed – but it is a significant offender when it comes to full cancellations, with more than 500 during the spring break season.

Airports with the Most On-Time Flight Departures

Spring break travel means millions of Americans across the country will be filling up airports to get away from it all. Want to escape on time? Your best bet in terms of on-time departures is Pittsburgh International where more than 83% of flights are on-time during spring break, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Round out the top five best airports for on-time departures are Portland International (2), Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International (3), Washington Dulles International (4), and Ronald Regan Washington National (5). 

Riskiest Cities to Visit for Spring Break 2024

Along with determining the riskiest cities to depart from during spring break, we also took a closer look at the riskiest cities to visit during spring break.

From weather and expenses to crime and safety, we conducted a comprehensive analysis of travel-related factors within the most popular spring break destinations in the U.S. To determine our ranking, we considered factors such as violent crime rate, fatal car accidents, average temperature, average precipitation, percentage of flight disruptions as well as cost of living expenses. Our ranking analyzed these key metrics throughout the 50 most popular spring break destinations across the.

#1. New York City, New York

It’s the city that never sleeps, so make sure you’re feeling well-rested before you book a trip to New York City this spring break. Along with resting up, you’ll also want to prepare yourself for the city’s high prices. According to our analysis of the cost of goods, food, and lodging, New York scores 10 out of 10 for expensive destinations. You might want to bring a coat as well, considering that the average temperature is only 55 degrees during spring break. 

#2. New Orleans, Louisiana

If you’re looking to take it easy in the Big Easy this spring break, make sure you know the risks before you travel. New Orleans’ high crime rate of 144.56 per 10,000 residents, as well as its high percentage of flight disruptions (25%) propelled the city to the No. 2 “riskiest” destination on our list.

#3. Salt Lake City, Utah

If you’re seeking warm weather and sandy beaches, Salt Lake City won’t be on your list. However, the city is a popular destination for spring break travelers seeking something different from cliché environments. If you do travel to Salt Lake City, keep in mind that the city has a crime rate of 96.26 per 10,000 residents.

#4. Honolulu, Hawaii

Heading to Hawaii this spring break? Along with Honolulu’s world-class beaches and picturesque scenery, there are some drawbacks to visiting, which come in the form of nearly 3 in 10 flight disruptions at the city’s main airport during the spring break season.

#5. South Beach, Florida

Perhaps one of the most popular spring break destinations on our list, South Beach Miami is also one of the riskiest to visit. Along with a high crime rate, nearly 30% of Miami International Airport’s flights are delayed or canceled during the spring break travel season. The city also scores a 9 out of 10 on our cost-of-living scale.

Methodology

To determine our ranking of worst airports, 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 spring break travel season (March through April 2023). Delay causes include air carrier delay, weather, security, national aviation system delay, late-arriving aircraft, diverted flights as well as canceled flights.

To determine our ranking of the riskiest cities to travel to, we analyzed the 50 most popular spring break destinations across the U.S. We compared these cities across six weighted variables: fatal car accidents (per 10,000), violent crime (per 10,000), average temperature, average precipitation, and cost of living. The average number of fatal car accidents was calculated via the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and Annual Report File (ARF). Violent crime was calculated using the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Crime Data Explorer. Cost of living was calculated using the Bureau of Economic Analysis data, and weather data was analyzed via the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Each variable was graded on a 100-point scale. To determine an overall score, each city’s weighted average was calculated across all metrics.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Airline Service Quality Performance, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Census Bureau, FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Fair Use: Feel free to use this data and research with proper attribution linking to this study or directly to agamble.com. 

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