Between unpredictable weather, maintenance issues, and staff shortages, delays are an inevitable part of air travel. These delays are a nuisance that cost travelers not only their time but also their money and peace of mind.
To better understand the impact of airport delays on passengers, FinanceBuzz analyzed data for 10 major airlines and the 50 busiest airports from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to find out the the percentage of flights delayed, the average length of delays, and when those delays typically occurred.
- Denver International Airport (DEN) cost passengers nearly 1,000 years of collective delay time — the most of any airport in the country.
- American Airlines passengers experienced more delay time than any other airline, accounting for 4,358 years worth of collective time waiting out delays.
- Flights departing on Fridays and Sundays are the most likely to get delayed.
The 25 major US airports where passengers spent the most time delayed
Denver International airport is one of the five busiest airports in the country and, unfortunately for its passengers, it also has some of the worst delay problems of any airport in the country. Some summary stats:
- 28% of all flights were delayed from DEN last year, with an average flight delay of 59 minutes.
- With 30.7 million passengers departing last year, this equates to a collective 509.2 million minutes of wasted consumer time, or 969 years. This is the highest total of any airport in America.
|Departure Airport||Collective Delay Time by Passenger Count in Years||Average Delay Length (minutes)||% of Flights Delayed||Number of Domestic Passengers (Millions)|
|Denver International Airport||969||59||28%||30.7|
|Dallas Fort Worth International Airport||944||71||22%||32.0|
|Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport||892||59||19%||41.1|
|Orlando International Airport||769||68||28%||21.0|
|Chicago O'Hare International Airport||726||70||19%||28.0|
|Harry Reid International Airport||662||58||27%||22.1|
|John F. Kennedy International Airport (was New York International Airport)||662||75||25%||18.7|
|Newark Liberty International Airport||651||71||26%||18.1|
|Miami International Airport||629||69||25%||19.5|
|Los Angeles International Airport||531||64||18%||24.6|
|Charlotte Douglas International Airport||514||66||19%||21.1|
|Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport||501||59||22%||19.8|
|Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport||476||68||27%||13.7|
|George Bush Intercontinental/Houston Airport||441||70||19%||16.9|
|Gen. Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport||416||73||21%||14.2|
|LaGuardia Airport (and Marine Air Terminal)||397||77||21%||12.8|
|Seattle–Tacoma International Airport||371||57||17%||19.7|
|Baltimore/Washington International Airport||336||53||33%||10.1|
|Minneapolis–St. Paul International/Wold-Chamberlain Airport||331||72||17%||14.2|
|San Francisco International Airport||323||63||17%||15.9|
|Chicago Midway International Airport||299||51||36%||8.7|
|Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport||295||71||21%||10.5|
|Detroit Metro Wayne County Airport||293||74||17%||12.7|
|Philadelphia International Airport||286||75||18%||11.3|
|Tampa International Airport||278||69||22%||9.6|
Only two other airports caused cumulative consumer delays within 100 years of Denver’s total. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) had the second-highest total in the country at 944 years, while Atlanta International Airport (ATL) was third with 892 years worth of cumulative passenger delay time.
The airlines most likely to experience departure delays
In terms of raw delay time, passengers on American Airlines flights got the short end of the stick last year, despite the fact that “only” 21% of their flights were delayed. Here’s why:
- Delays on American airlines averaged 78 minutes last year, one of the highest rates in the industry.
- With 138.6 million passengers departing last year, this equates to a collective 2.3 billion minutes of wasted consumer time, or 4,358 years. This is the highest total of any airline in America.
|Airline||Collective Delay Time by Passenger Count in Years||Average Delay Length (minutes)||% of Flights Delayed||Number of Domestic Passengers (Millions)|
|American Airlines Inc.||4,358||78||21%||138.6|
|Southwest Airlines Co.||3,784||49||28%||145.6|
|Delta Air Lines Inc.||2,850||70||16%||131.7|
|United Airlines Inc.||2,711||71||20%||102.4|
|Spirit Airlines Inc.||1046||68||23%||35.2|
|Frontier Airlines Inc.||1004||73||31%||23.3|
|SkyWest Airlines Inc.||960||87||15%||38.2|
|Alaska Airlines Inc.||526||54||17%||29.4|
|PSA Airlines Inc.||298||78||17%||11.9|
|Endeavor Air Inc.||263||85||14%||11.7|
|Mesa Airlines Inc.||255||93||19%||7.5|
|Envoy Air Inc.||244||63||15%||13.4|
|Hawaiian Airlines Inc.||174||47||21%||9.2|
Southwest, known for its major cancellation events in December of last year, had the second most cumulative passenger delay time. Southwest’s average delay time was 49 minutes, nearly a half-hour shorter than American’s average delay and 18 minutes less than the average delay across all airlines.
The most common days of the week for delays
For travelers looking to avoid delays, flying on certain days of the week could help or hinder your quest for a timely departure. In terms of days to avoid, flights leaving on Friday and Sunday are most likely to be delayed, with 23% of flights departing on those days taking off late.
Savvy travelers looking to maximize their chances of a timely takeoff should target two specific days when scheduling flights. Tuesday and Wednesday are the days where delays are the least likely to occur, with just 18% of flights on those days taking off late.
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We analyzed publicly available data from the U.S. Department of Transportation relating to flight delays for 10 major domestic airlines (all flights from all domestic airports), the 50 busiest airports in the U.S. based on passenger volume, and different days of the week (all flights from all domestic airports). We calculated the total number of minutes passengers (collectively) spent delayed and then ranked airlines, airports, and days based on those results, while also narrowing the airport list down to the 25 airports with the most collective delay time.
We looked at data sets for the percentage of on-time departures, average airport delay in minutes, number of departing passengers, and number of departing domestic flights. Data covers the entirety of 2022.
The DOT defines a delayed flight as one which departs or arrives more than 15 minutes from its scheduled time. Departure performance is based on departure from gate. Airlines report monthly numbers and cause of flight delays to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. When multiple causes are assigned for the delay, each cause is prorated based on the number of delayed minutes it is responsible for.
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