These Are the Busiest Flight Routes During the Holiday Season

Oct 25, 2018

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With packed planes, bad weather and tight timelines, the holiday travel season can be far from “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

Luckily, AirHelp released a new study that shows the most crowded and most disrupted flight routes within the US during the holiday travel season, so now you can book your flights accordingly and potentially salvage a little holiday cheer.

Thanksgiving

Although the best time to book Thanksgiving flights was a few weeks ago, if you are a procrastinator, you can still try to avoid these hectic routes. Data from last year that looked at the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Nov. 21, 2017 to the following Monday revealed that more than 153,000 flights took off in the US alone. Here were the top 10 busiest routes:

  1. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) → San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  2. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) → Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  3. New York LaGuardia Airport (LGA) → Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
  4. Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) → New York LaGuardia Airport (LGA)
  5. Kahului Airport (OGG) → Honolulu International Airport (HNL)
  6. Honolulu International Airport (HNL) → Kahului Airport (OGG)
  7. New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) → Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  8. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) → New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
  9. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) → Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS)
  10. Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS) → Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

If you were planning on booking a flight on one of these high-traffic routes, you should also keep in mind that a majority of them were also in the running (or on the list) or the top 10 most disrupted flights:

  1. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) → San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  2. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) → Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  3. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) → San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  4. San Diego International Airport (SAN) → San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  5. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) → San Diego International Airport (SAN)
  6. Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) → Orlando International Airport (MCO)
  7. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) → Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS)
  8. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) → Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
  9. Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS) → San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  10. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) → New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

If you’re looking to avoid delays (and why wouldn’t you be?) AirHelp also found that flights that take place between 6am and 11:59am experienced the least disruptions overall.

Christmas/New Year’s Eve

Easing into the peak of the holiday season, it’s no coincidence that airplanes and airports tend to hit their highest capacity in December. Prices go up, space decreases and you’d better get to the airport at least two hours early or have your TSA pre-check ready. AirHelp’s data analyzed the busiest travel days for Christmas week, between Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017, and Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018. Here are the top 10 most popular departure dates and locations from that week:

  1. Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL): December 29
  2. Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD): December 22
  3. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX): January 2
  4. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW): January 2
  5. Denver International Airport (DEN): December 22
  6. Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT): December 27
  7. Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH): December 29
  8. San Francisco International Airport (SFO): December 22
  9. New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK): December 21
  10. Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR): December 22

And here are that week’s most disrupted routes:

  1. New York LaGuardia Airport (LGA) → Toronto Lester B. Pearson International Airport (YYZ)
  2. New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) → Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  3. Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) → Toronto Lester B. Pearson International Airport (YYZ)
  4. Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) → Toronto Lester B. Pearson International Airport (YYZ)
  5. Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) → New York LaGuardia Airport (LGA)
  6. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) → Portland International Airport (PDX)
  7. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) → Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  8. Boston Edward L. Logan International Airport (BOS) → Orlando International Airport (MCO)
  9. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) → San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  10. Boston Edward L. Logan International Airport (BOS) → Toronto Lester B. Pearson International Airport (YYZ)

If it’s too late for you, and you happen to be one of these high-traffic, frequently disrupted routes, here at 7 tips for surviving delays and cancellations at the airport. Keep in mind that it is also prime time to purchase a ticket for your Christmas and New Year’s Eve travels. By booking about nine weeks in advance, you can save up to $260 that you could be spending on gifts for that someone special. Let’s just hope that a disruption doesn’t get in the way.

Featured image by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

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