As millions prepare to fly on vacation, a look at an airport’s delays and cancellations can give travelers a preview of whether they’ll need to pack their patience during the winter months.
AAA expects winter travel to be very close to pre-pandemic levels and warns airlines have taken steps to avoid lengthy delays.
“Airlines have eliminated less popular/profitable routes to have enough staff to avoid flight delays and cancellations. Those flying between the most popular routes will see fares that are 22% more expensive, with an average round trip of $166,” AAA said in a press release.
Despite the airlines’ best intentions, a FOX Weather analysis of data provided by FlightAware found which airports tend to be home to the most problems from December through February.
For the last six months of winter, Newark Liberty International ranked the top US airport for the highest percentage of delayed and canceled flights. Based on scheduled flight schedules, an average of 29 percent of aircraft faced a delay or cancellation.
Newark’s operators, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, did not respond to comment on the story, but a look at climatological data shows that the northern parts of the state average more than 20 inches of snow, which is plenty to play with Chaos with arriving and departing planes.
“Northern New Jersey is close enough to the paths of storms that traverse the Great Lakes region and St. Lawrence Valley to receive some of its precipitation from this source,” the Garden State climate researchers said.
Other airports with high combined cancellations and delays include Denver International, Chicago’s O’Hare International and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Nine out of 10 airports that topped FOX Weather’s list with the most delays and cancellations typically experience some form of winter precipitation, which can slow or halt air travel.
Which airport usually has the most cancellations?
A winter storm that hits a major airport hub along the I-95 corridor can result in thousands of cancellations.
Depending on the number of flights scheduled, airports may have a higher cancellation rate than a city with a higher number of canceled planes.
Not every delay or cancellation is created equal, meaning a city with a higher number might actually have a lower rate if it’s home to a large number of scheduled flights.
For example, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport had more than 108,000 scheduled flights in winter 2019-20 compared to just over 48,000 at Boston’s Logan International Airport. Boston had a higher percentage of canceled flights than Chicago, leading it to rank higher in the list of top cancellations.
According to FOX Weather’s analysis of available data, a flyer was more likely to be canceled in Boston than in the Windy City.
For the past two winters, a ranking of average cancellations led Boston with the highest rating of canceled flights, followed by Newark, O’Hare, LaGuardia and Denver.
|rank||Airport||Average canceled flights per season|
|1||Boston-Logan International Airport||1,792|
|2||Newark Liberty International Airport||1,758|
|3||O’Hare International Airport||4,052|
|5||Denver International Airport||1,969|
Which cities have the worst delays?
The airport that ranked second on our list with the most cancellations topped the list with the most delays.
For the last six winter months, Newark averaged over 12,000 delays per winter season. Other airports rounding out the top 5 are Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, and Orlando.
Once again, the number of scheduled flights played a role in the ranking of the individual airports.
Orlando handled more scheduled flights than Minneapolis, meaning a delay in the Twin Cities meant it ranked higher than the home of Mickey Mouse.
|rank||Airport||Average delayed flights per season|
|1||Newark Liberty International Airport||12.213|
|2||O’Hare International Airport||18,910|
|3||Denver International Airport||16,148|
|4||Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport||7,775|
|5||Orlando International Airport||8,345|
Still, Orlando isn’t known for its winter storms, and the last snow event to affect the region was over 45 years ago, when an arctic front helped leave a massive trail of snow in its wake.
So why was Orlando at the top of the list of delays? Travel experts say there’s more than just Mother Nature’s impact on the airline industry.
Despite the lack of winter weather, Florida’s airports have a high priority
Florida is known as the Sunshine State, with snow events that are considered rare and temperatures that typically stay above freezing, but airports like Orlando and Miami are ahead of many other Southern cities in delays and cancellations.
Travel experts believe the deadlock in Florida skies in recent years has resulted in ongoing problems for major airlines that have drawn the attention of the Federal Aviation Administration.
“Florida is still a work in progress. Not only has air travel to Florida airports increased during the pandemic, but so has private aviation—particularly to airports like Palm Beach. So then you have private planes competing for the same airspace as the airlines. Nobody predicted the huge surge in private aviation during the pandemic – we’re still about 20% up from 2019,” said Kathleen Bangs, a former commercial airline pilot and current spokesperson for FlightAware.
Bangs says opening routes across the ocean could help ease the load on the system, but it could also lead to other problems.
“But one of the problems with opening and using these routes is that so many planes don’t have the life rafts, life jackets, etc. on board right away – and if you have to swap one plane for another due to a mechanical problem or late arrival – then you have They may not have the required equipment on board,” Bangs said.