The Worst US Airports for Holiday Travel Gallery

Avoid these airports if you’re traveling for the holidays — or at least plan to experience some delays
The Worst US Airports for Holiday Travel
Dreamstime

The Worst US Airports for Holiday Travel

The Worst US Airports for Holiday Travel
Dreamstime

Air travel can be very grueling, and it will probably only get worse as more regulations, such as the most recent TSA screening rule regarding food and electronics, are put in place. Just the ordeal of packing, getting to the airport on time, going through check-in, security, and then boarding is enough to tire a person out. All of that gets amplified, however, during the holiday season. The holidays are a time when many people are traveling to spend time and celebrate with family or friends and a lot of families with children are taking advantage of winter break. This means airports are that much more chaotic, that much more tiring to go through. Due to the volume of travelers, and sometimes weather conditions, delays and cancellations are far more frequent. At some airports, they almost feel guaranteed.

Finance technology company SmartAsset conducted an analysis in which they took a look at every airport with at least 4,000 domestic flights scheduled for December from 2012 to 2015. Each airport was ranked according to three factors: cancellation rate, delay rate, and the average time of those delays. Those rankings were then averaged, giving half weight to delay rates and full weight to both cancellation rates and average length of delays. The airports were then given a score out of 100, with higher rankings meaning they had longer delays and a higher percentage of cancellations and delays. We’ve compiled a list from that data to help you determine which airports to avoid this winter, as these US airports are the worst for holiday travel.

#20 Memphis International Airport (Shelby County, Tenn.)

#20 Memphis International Airport (Shelby County, Tenn.)

Memphis International Airport/Yelp

The busiest cargo airport in the country, Tennessee’s Memphis International Airport is a civil-military airport located just outside of the city of Memphis. Holiday flights were delayed 31.7 percent of the time, with delays averaging 40.2 minutes. Out of all scheduled flights, 1.83 percent were cancelled completely. Memphis Airport has an index score of 69.6.

#19 Kansas City International Airport (Kansas City, Mo.)

#19 Kansas City International Airport (Kansas City, Mo.)
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Kansas City International Airport has an index score of 69.6, with 2.24 percent of its flights having been cancelled during the holiday season. Flights were delayed at a rate of 46.5 percent, and those delays were 32.2 minutes on average.

#18 Louisville International Airport (Louisville, Ky.)

#18 Louisville International Airport (Louisville, Ky.)

Clint C./Yelp

Flight delays at Louisville International Airport occurred at a rate of 41.1 percent and averaged 34.5 minutes. Cancellations made up 2.13 percent of scheduled flights, and the airport received an index score of 71.8.

#17 Reno-Tahoe International Airport (Reno, Nev.)

#17 Reno-Tahoe International Airport (Reno, Nev.)

Reno-Tahoe International Airport/Yelp

Reno-Tahoe International Airport has an index of 72.7 according to the scale, with 45.5 percent of flights being delayed. Those delays held an average of 32.7 minutes, and 2.13 percent of flights were cancelled outright.

#16 Denver International Airport (Denver, Colo.)

#16 Denver International Airport (Denver, Colo.)

. ../Yelp

In terms of size, Denver International Airport is the largest airport in the United States. It’s also one of the worst ones to be at during the holidays, as 58.1 percent of holiday flights were delayed, averaging 33.5 minutes. (Perhaps it’d be a good idea to book a stay at the stunning Westin Denver International Airport if you’re flying out from here.) In terms of cancellations, 1.74 percent of flights ended up not taking off, and like Reno-Tahoe International Airport, it has an index of 72.7.

#15 Charleston International Airport (North Charleston, S.C.)

#15 Charleston International Airport (North Charleston, S.C.)

Timothy A./Yelp

Charleston International Airport, both South Carolina’s largest and busiest, is a civil-military airport, and it scores 73.8 on the index. Of the flights that flew out from here, 33.8 percent had experienced delays. Those delays averaged a time of 38.9 minutes.

#14 Eppley Airfield (Omaha, Neb.)

#14 Eppley Airfield (Omaha, Neb.)

Michelle C./Yelp

Eppley is Nebraska’s largest airport, as well as its worst airport to fly out of during the holidays. Earning an index of 76.0, 2.10 percent of the flights at Eppley were cancelled. Delays constituted 40.8 percent of flights, with an average time of 36 minutes.

#13 Tulsa International Airport (Tulsa, Okla.)

#13 Tulsa International Airport (Tulsa, Okla.)

Glen M./Yelp

This civil-military airport received an index score of 76.2, and 2.56 percent of its flights were cancelled during the holiday travel season. Delays made up 39 percent of flights, averaging a time of 35.6 minutes.

#12 Washington Dulles International Airport (Washington, D.C.)

#12 Washington Dulles International Airport (Washington, D.C.)
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Washington Dulles is only one of three airports serving the nation’s capital, but it’s the only one to make this list. Receiving an index score of 78.2, the airport saw 48.1 percent of its flights delayed, averaging 34.3 minutes. Flights were canceled at a rate of 2.18 percent.

#11 Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (Cleveland, Ohio)

#11 Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (Cleveland, Ohio)
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Ohio’s largest and busiest airport, Cleveland Hopkins experienced delays with 37.9 percent of its flights during the holidays. Delays lasted an average of 37.9 minutes, and 2.39 percent of flights were cancelled. The airport ranked with an index score of 78.7.

#10 Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport (Dallas & Terrant Counties, Texas)

#10 Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport (Dallas & Terrant Counties, Texas)
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With an index score of 79.6, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport managed to earn a place in the top 10 worst airports for the holidays. A whopping 4.99 percent of flights were cancelled, with 47.9 percent of flights being delayed. Those delays averaged a time of 32.6 minutes.

#9 LaGuardia Airport (New York, NY)

#9 LaGuardia Airport (New York, NY)
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LaGuardia isn’t even New York City’s busiest airport (it ranks third behind John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport), but it’s terrible for the holidays all the same. The airport scored an index of 80.7, with 2.60 percent of its flights being cancelled. Flight delays occurred at a rate 37.9 percent, and averaged 37.8 minutes.

#8 General Mitchell International Airport (Milwaukee, Wis.)

#8 General Mitchell International Airport (Milwaukee, Wis.)

John F./Yelp

Milwaukee’s main airport received an index score of 82.6, with 41.6 percent of flights being delayed. On average, delays were 36.4 minutes, and 2.40 percent of flights were outright cancelled.

#7 Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (Hebron, Ky.)

#7 Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (Hebron, Ky.)

Brittany S./Yelp

The flights at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport were cancelled at a rate of 3.03 percent, with delays making up 31.6 percent of flights. The average delay time was 44.2 minutes, and the airport received an index score of 83.1.

#6 Will Rogers World Airport (Oklahoma City, Okla.)

#6 Will Rogers World Airport (Oklahoma City, Okla.)

Jonathan C./Yelp

Oklahoma managed to nab two spots on this list, with Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers Airport receiving an index score of 83.7. Flights at Will Rogers were delayed 42.3 percent of the time and cancelled 2.60 percent of the time. Flight delays averaged 35.8 minutes.

#5 Palm Springs International Airport (Palm Springs, Calif.)

#5 Palm Springs International Airport (Palm Springs, Calif.)
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The airport in Palm Springs, California received an index score of 85.1, with 36.4 percent of their flights experiencing delays. Those delays averaged 45.9 minutes, and 2.85 percent of flights were outright cancelled.

#4 Chicago O’Hare International Airport (Chicago, Ill.)

#4 Chicago O’Hare International Airport (Chicago, Ill.)

Brandi I./Yelp

O’Hare experiences delays for 48.3 percent of their flights, with an average delay of 34.8 minutes. Their flights were cancelled at a rate of 2.99 percent, and the Chicago airport received an index score of 87.3.

#3 Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport/Adams Field (Little Rock, Ark.)

#3 Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport/Adams Field (Little Rock, Ark.)

Bruce K./Yelp

Clinton National Airport received a 92.8 on the index, with a flight delay rate of 49.5 percent and a flight cancellation rate of 4.69 percent. Delays average about 39.8 minutes.

#2 Newark Liberty International Airport (Elizabeth & Newark, N.J.)

#2 Newark Liberty International Airport (Elizabeth & Newark, N.J.)
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Newark Airport serves as New Jersey’s main airport, but it’s a travel hub for many travelers in the New York City and Philadelphia metropolitan areas as well. The first major airport in America, as well as its third largest, Newark experience delays for 51.1 percent of its flights, with an average delay time of 36.9 minutes. Flights that are outright canceled make up 2.87 percent. It scores a 94.8 on the index.

#1 San Francisco International Airport (San Francisco, Calif.)

#1 San Francisco International Airport (San Francisco, Calif.)
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San Francisco gets the top spot, with a solid index of 100.0, making it the absolute worst airport for you to be at for the holidays. Flights get canceled 3.26 percent of the time, whereas 49.5 percent of them are delayed. The average delay time at San Francisco International Airport is 41.2 minutes. Perhaps it might be a better idea to stay on the ground this holiday; click here for the best Christmas train rides you can check out this holiday season.