For those who may want to avoid spending their holiday dinner at the boarding gate, munching on a tuna sandwich and waiting for news about their delayed, if not cancelled, flight, researchers at CompareCards and InsureMyTrip studied the data and came up with lists of the best and worst airports to pass through this season.

First, it is important to note that a record number of passengers plan to travel by plane during the upcoming holidays. U.S. airlines carried a record high total of 1 billion passengers in 2018, 4.8% more than the previous year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS).

CompareCards analyzed a decade of stats from the U.S. Department of Transportation for holiday flight data between 2009 and 2018 at the 50 busiest airports in the U.S. They came up with these airports to put on “to be avoided” list:

Chicago-area airports are the most likely to have flights delayed during the holiday season. The research found that just 63% of flights out of Chicago’s Midway Airport reached their destinations on time, the worst of any airport they reviewed.

It turned out that one in three flights arrived at least 15 minutes late, and nearly 3% of scheduled flights canceled outright. At nearby O’Hare, only 65% of flights reached their destinations within 15 minutes of scheduled arrival times and just under 4% of flights are canceled there.

Newark Liberty International Airport can almost be counted upon — to cancel flights. Only around 65% of departing flights can be expected to arrive on time. It also has the highest December holiday cancellation rates of all the airports, with a 10-year average of 4%.

More than one in three flights taking off from these airports were delayed: Chicago Midway, Chicago O’Hare, Newark, Denver and Houston Hobby.

Meanwhile, travel insurance provider InsureMyTrip compiled a list of the top 75 U.S. airports that have the least chance of having holiday mishaps this season. But for those who want to make sure their holiday is not ruined and spent on the floor under a row of black faux-leather row chairs, a look at vacation protection through trip insurance may be in order.


Hawaii airports are considered the least stressful, followed by Salt Lake City (SLC) and Atlanta (ATL).

It is forecast that New York's LaGuardia (LGA) will no longer be most stressful for travelers this season. LGA has improved its cancellation rate this year. The airport previously reported the highest percentage of canceled flights in the country for both 2017 and 2018 (winter storms were a factor).

Flights scheduled for departure between 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. are more susceptible to delays and cancellations.

If a flight is canceled, most airlines will rebook travelers on the next available flight at no additional charge. However, airlines are not required to reimburse travelers for losses incurred as a result of a canceled flight.

Flight cancellation policies vary by airline and circumstance. When an airline cancels a flight, most will try to rebook passengers on the next available flight. However, passengers need to know that airlines are not required to reimburse travelers for losses incurred as a result of a canceled flight, such as prepaid, non-refundable:

  • Hotel rooms
  • All-inclusive vacations or resorts
  • Cruises
  • Tours or safaris
  • Concert or entertainment tickets

Travelers concerned about delays should be aware of the following:

  • Generally, early departures are less likely to be delayed.
  • When booking, ask the airline about the on-time performance percentage for an individual flight.
  • Closer to departure, check real-time airport data. This will provide timely information on weather concerns or air traffic delays.
  • Be aware of "creeping delays." This is when an airline continues to push back a departure time it can sometimes be extended for hours or lead to a cancellation.
  • If a flight is delayed, try to learn the reason why to better gauge if the flight is in jeopardy of being canceled. Reasons for delays may include maintenance, fueling, crew issues, weather, previous flight with the same aircraft arrived late, causing the present flight to depart late, or security issues.
  • Some flights will be delayed on the tarmac before or after takeoff. As a general rule, DOT prohibits flights to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours.