4 Useful Tips For Booking Your Thanksgiving Flights

One of the many frustrating things about holidays is travelling home and back.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we took a look at departure delays for the days around Thanksgiving at the nation’s 10 busiest airports.

The chart below shows the percentage of flights that departed late from each airport on each day from the Saturday before Thanksgiving to the Wednesday after, averaged over the years 2008-2012. We took this data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ Airline On-time Statistics database, an amazingly comprehensive collection of information on air travel delays for the largest airlines.

The data suggest some useful travel tips:

  • Flying out of O’Hare, Miami, San Francisco, or Las Vegas the day before Thanksgiving can be pretty rough. About one in five flights from those airports on Thanksgiving Eve depart late.
  • If you are not going too far, and you are not in charge of cooking the turkey, consider flying on Thanksgiving Day itself. At each of the airports other than San Francisco, more than 90% of flights left on time on Thanksgiving Day.
  • Your flight back after Thanksgiving is more likely to be late than your flight to your grandmother’s house. There tend to be more delayed flights over the weekend after Thanksgiving than on the days before. Given that, you are probably better off flying back on Saturday than on Sunday or especially Monday.
  • If your travels are taking you through the southeast, consider flying through Charlotte rather than through Atlanta. On each day, except for Thanksgiving Day itself and Black Friday, Charlotte suffered a much smaller proportion of delayed flights than Atlanta.

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