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The Best and Worst Days and Times to Fly to Avoid Airport Delays

If you're looking to get somewhere on time, an early morning Saturday flight may be your best bet

What to Know

  • Whether it's traveling to see family or heading to a tropical location, no one wants to deal with problems and delays at the airport
  • Thursdays and Fridays are when travelers are most likely to see the delays, while Saturday flights are best; Early mornings are also best
  • Locally, JFK Airport has the most flights operating on-time or early; LaGuardia is second and Newark is third

As the holiday travel season approaches, many Americans will be heading to airports to get to their destinations.

In fact, the Transportation Security Administration estimates that there will be a four percent increase in those hitting the skies for Thanksgiving alone this year compared to 2018.

"Between November 22nd and December 2nd, we anticipate that 26.8 million passengers, will travel thru TSA checkpoints nationwide," said Acting Deputy TSA Administrator Patricia Cogswell.

Whether it's traveling to see family or heading to a tropical location to escape the chilly weather (and maybe family as well), no one wants to deal with problems and delays once they're at the airport.

So what are the days that have the highest numbers of delays — aka the days flyers should try to avoid?

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According to the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Thursdays and Fridays are the days travelers are most likely to see the delays. While that might not surprise some passengers, the best day to fly in terms of on-time was not entirely expected.

It wasn't early or midweek flights that have the lowest number of delayed flights rate, but rather Saturdays were found to be the best day to avoid delays.

If which day you fly is out of your control, there are better times of day to fly as well. Early morning flights, around 5 or 6 a.m., give passengers the best odds to have an on-time flight.

If waking up that early doesn't sound worth it, just be sure to schedule a flight before the evening rush, between 4 and 8 p.m. Those hours see the highest numbers of delayed flights overall. 

As for how the major local airports stack up against one another, Kennedy International Airport has more flights that arrive on time or even early than the others. More than 64 percent of the time flights operate on time or early from the Queens airport.

LaGuardia Airport is next with more than 61 percent of the flights on time, and Newark Liberty International Airport finishing third as just over 59 percent of flights arrive early or on time.

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There is one local flight in particular that takes the cake when it comes to consistently being delayed. The 8:30 p.m. United Airlines flight from Newark to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, arrives late 64 percent of the time (that's nearly 2 out of every three flights done are not on time).

Another afternoon flight to Fort Lauderdale is the worst for JFK Airport, with Jet Blue's 4:30 p.m. trip down there arriving late 45 percent of the time. LaGuardia's least on-time flight is United's 7 p.m. to Chicago's O'Hare International Aiport is late 61 percent of the time.

If you do encounter a delay, there are some things that can be done to accomodate the inconvenience. While airlines in the U.S. are not required to compensate passengers when flights are delayed, if there is a long delay ask the airline if it will provide a voucher for food or a hotel room. Travelers can also aske to switch to another flight, but be sure to find out if there will be any sort of fee or higher fare.

If the delayed flight is originating or landing in a European Union country, then there is mandated compensation for delays of more than three hours.

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