What are the worst airports to fly to in winter?

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As millions prepare to fly for the holidays, a look at an airport’s delays and cancellations can give travelers a taste of whether they should pack their patience during the winter months.

AAA expects winter travel to approach pre-pandemic levels and warns that airlines have taken steps to avoid long delays.

“Airlines have cut off less popular/profitable routes in order to have enough staff to avoid flight delays and cancellations. Those flying between the most popular routes will see airfares that are 22% more expensive with an average round trip of $166,” AAA said in a press release.

Despite airlines’ best intentions, a UKTN Weather analysis of data from FlightAware found which airports have the most problems from December to February.

During the past six winter months, Newark Liberty International ranked first with the highest rate of flight delays and cancellations among the major US airports. Based on scheduled flight plans, an average of 29 percent of aircraft experienced delays or cancellations.

A UKTN Weather analysis of data from FlightAware shows flights with the most problems from December through February.
Andrew Wolfeck

The Newark Port Authority of New York and New Jersey operators did not respond to comment on the story, but a look at climatic data shows that northern parts of the state average more than 8 inches of snow, which is plenty to play with. is havoc with arriving and departing planes.

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“Northern New Jersey is close enough to the paths of the storms that traverse the Great Lakes region and the St. Lawrence Valley to receive some of the precipitation from that source,” said Garden State climatologists. .

Other airports with many combined cancellations and delays include Denver International, O’Hare International in Chicago, and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Nine of the 10 airports that topped UKTN Weather’s list of most delays and cancellations typically experience some form of winter precipitation, which can slow or halt air traffic.

Which airport typically has the most cancellations?

A winter storm hitting a major airport hub along the I-95 corridor could result in thousands of cancellations.

Depending on the number of scheduled flights, airports may have more cancellations than a city with a higher number of canceled aircraft.

Not every delay or cancellation is created equal, which means that a city with a higher number of flights can actually get a lower fare if it has a large number of scheduled flights.

For example, during the winter of 2019-20, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport had more than 108,000 scheduled flights compared to just over 48,000 at Boston’s Logan International Airport. Boston had a higher share of flight cancellations than Chicago, placing it higher on the list of top flight cancellations.

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According to UKTN Weather’s analysis of available data, a flyer was more likely to be canceled in Boston than in Windy City.

Over the past two winters, a ranking of average cancellations put Boston in the lead with the highest score of flight cancellations, followed by Newark, O’Hare, LaGuardia and Denver.

Rank Airport Average number of canceled flights per season
1 Boston Logan International Airport 1,792
2 Newark Liberty International Airport 1,758
3 O’Hare International Airport 4,052
4 LaGuardia airport 1,565
5 Denver International Airport 1,969

Which cities have the biggest delays?

The airport that came in second on our list with the most cancellations topped the list with the most delays.

Over the past six winter months, Newark averaged more than 12,000 delays per winter season. Other airports rounding out the top five are Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis and Orlando.

Again, the number of scheduled flights played a role in each airport’s ranking.

Orlando handled more scheduled flights than Minneapolis, which meant a delay in the Twin Cities caused it to rank higher than Mickey Mouse’s home.

Rank Airport Average number of delayed flights per season
1 Newark Liberty International Airport 12,213
2 O’Hare International Airport 18,910
3 Denver International Airport 16,148
4 Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport 7,775
5 Orlando International Airport 8,345

Still, Orlando isn’t known for its winter storms, and the last snow event to hit the region was more than 45 years ago when an Arctic front helped produce whopping tracks of snow.

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So, why was Orlando high on the list of delays? Travel experts say there’s more than Mother Nature’s influence on the airline industry.

Florida’s airports rank highly despite a lack of winter weather

Florida is known as the Sunshine State, with snow events considered rare and temperatures usually staying above freezing, but airports like Orlando and Miami are ahead of many other southern cities in delays and cancellations.

Travel experts believe the Florida air gridlock in recent years has created ongoing problems for major airlines that have drawn the attention of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Florida is a work in progress. Not only did airline service increase to Florida airports during the pandemic, but so did private aviation — especially to airports like Palm Beach. So then you have private jets competing for the same airspace as the airlines. No one predicted the massive increase in private aviation during the pandemic – we are still about 20% higher than in 2019,” said Kathleen Bangs, a former commercial airline pilot and current FlightAware spokesperson.

Bangs said opening routes across the ocean could relieve pressure on the system, but could lead to other problems as well.

“However, one of the problems with opening and using those routes is that so many aircraft do not have the life rafts, life jackets, etc. directly on board – and if you have to change one aircraft for another due to a mechanical problem or late arrival – then you may not have the necessary equipment on board,” said Bangs.

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