America's Best and Worst Airports for Delays

  • America's Best and Worst Airports for Delays:

    Photo: Courtesy of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

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    Most airports are running a little behind schedule lately—and some are redefining time warps. Here’s how to beat their clocks.

    From October 2013 By

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    Weather. Traffic. Traffic due to weather. Shep Hyken has heard all the usual excuses for flight delays, especially when he’s in Chicago.

    “I have more delays at O’Hare than any other airport,” says the St. Louis–based customer service consultant. The most maddening explanations, he adds, are almost surreal. “It amazes me when a flight attendant or captain can’t be found,” he says. “I’ve even heard, ‘We’ve lost the plane.’”

    No surprise, O’Hare is contending with the likes of Newark and Dallas–Fort Worth to be the most-delayed airport in the nation, according to Department of Transportation statistics (July 2012 through June 2013).

    Most major airports reported some increase in delayed departures—defined as leaving at least 15 minutes late—and a few airports got seriously caught in the time-space continuum.

    To boost your odds of leaving on schedule, we looked at the airports’ hour-by-hour stats to find the most punctual time frames and the best times to avoid.

    Resourceful travelers, meanwhile, have learned to game the system. Virginia-based travel blogger Becky Pokora says she schedules super-tight connections in O’Hare, knowing they’ll likely get stretched out. “It hasn’t backfired yet,” she says.

  • Salt Lake City International Airport in Navada.

    Photo: Michael Schoenfeld/Courtesy of Salt Lake City Department of Airports

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    Best: No. 1 Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)

    Flights Delayed: 11.7%

    The Utah hub has reached the pinnacle of punctuality four times since 2008, and with good reason: your odds of being delayed rise above 10 percent only for one hour before noon, and approach the 25 percent threshold for just two hours during the entire day. The only bad news: overall delays are still up by 2.5 percentage points year over year.

    Best Time Window: Before noon.

    Worst Time Window: 6–8 p.m.

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  • America's Best and Worst Airports for Delays: Portland International Airport (PDX)

    Photo: Courtesy of Port of Portland

    3 of 12

    Best: No. 2 Portland International Airport (PDX)

    Flights Delayed: 12.5%

    For a city that prides itself on being mellow, this Oregon airport surprisingly cracks the whip—in a good way. For six years, PDX has held the No. 2 position, and it’s hard to complain when its on-time departure rate never dips below 79 percent. During the first hour of the day, PDX has one of the highest on-time percentages of all the major airports—a near-spotless 96 percent.

    Best Time Window: Before 10 a.m.

    Worst Time Window: 2–3 p.m.

  • America's Best and Worst Airports for Delays: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

    Photo: Hemis / Alamy

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    Best: No. 3 Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

    Flights Delayed: 13.1%

    Who cares about a little (or even a lot of) rain? The seemingly Gore-Tex–encased airport has previously been No. 1 for on-time departures, and this year comes in at No. 3, with a small uptick in tardiness. Airport workers may be helping themselves to second cups of morning coffee: on-time success rates stay above 85 percent until almost noon, and never go below 80 percent all day.

    Best Time Window: Before 11 a.m.

    Worst Time Window: 4–5 p.m.

  • America's Best and Worst Airports for Delays: Minneapolis-St. Paul International (MSP)

    Photo: Courtesy of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

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    Best: No. 4 Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport (MSP)

    Flights Delayed: 13.8%

    Last year, the Twin Cities airport boosted its on-time performance by a dazzling seven percentage points, jetting into the top five for the first time in years. This year, the airport shed two of those points, but still offers a wide range of reliable departure times. Morning is the most delay-proof, but your chances of an on-time departure stay in the 80 percent range all afternoon.

    Best Time Window: Before noon.

    Worst Time Window: 7–9 p.m.

  • America's Best and Worst Airports for Delays: Reagan National Airport (DCA)

    Photo: Michael Bell

    6 of 12

    Best: No. 5 Reagan National Airport (DCA)

    Flights Delayed: 15.4%

    Who says that no one can get anything done in our nation’s capital? Even after skidding three points overall, the D.C. airport’s on-time performance hovers around 85 percent until 2 in the afternoon. Just be sure to beat it from the Beltway by dinnertime.

    Best Time Window: Before 2 p.m.

    Worst Time Window: 9–10 p.m.

  • America's Best and Worst Airports for Delays: Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)

    Photo: CHARLES REX ARBOGAST/AP Images

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    Worst: No. 1 Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)

    Flights Delayed: 27.3%

    The Windy City’s less-notorious airport ranked as third for the most delays last year. A seven-point plunge has given it this year’s trophy for tardiness. Ironically, the airport actually starts the day with gusto, averaging a less-than-10-percent chance of delays for three whole hours. But things almost methodically deteriorate as the day wears on (and on, if you’re sitting there). By 11 p.m., your odds of leaving late are at 74 percent.

    Best Time Window: Before 8 a.m.

    Worst Time Window: 6–11 p.m.

    See More Business Travel Ideas

  • America's Best and Worst Airports for Delays: Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD)

    Photo: Mira / Alamy

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    Worst: No. 2 Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

    Flights Delayed: 25.9%

    Over the past few years, O’Hare has worked hard to rehabilitate its rogue reputation: last year, it ranked at an almost-respectable sixth worst. But the hub seems to have fallen back into its old ways, dropping six points in productivity. By late evening, you could just as easily flip a coin to find out whether you should start heading to the gate or looking for a place to sleep.

    Best Time Window: Before 8 a.m.

    Worst Time Window: 4 p.m.–midnight.

  • America's Best and Worst Airports for Delays: Newark International Airport (EWR)

    Photo: Gary Hershorn/Corbis

    9 of 12

    Worst: No. 3 Newark International Airport (EWR)

    Flights Delayed: 25.7%

    Last year’s No. 1 airport for delays slipped another two percentage points this year, thanks largely to the Chicago airports, which did even worse by comparison. On a typical afternoon here, you have at least a 25 percent chance of wishing you’d picked one of the other NYC-area airports. (JFK’s overall delay rate is a less depressing 20.1 percent, and LaGuardia’s is a downright reasonable 17.6.)

    Best Time Window: Before 9 a.m.

    Worst Time Window: After 5 p.m.

  • America's Best and Worst Airports for Delays: Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

    Photo: Courtesy of DFW

    10 of 12

    Worst: No. 4 Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

    Flights Delayed: 23.6%

    The sprawling Texas hub lost six percentage points in its on-time score this year. If you think you can outrun the five-o’clock crowds by leaving mid-afternoon, bad news: traffic starts seriously slowing by 2 p.m. and doesn’t pick up again until the next morning.

    Best Time Window: Before 9 a.m.

    Worst Time Window: After 6 p.m.

  • America's Best and Worst Airports for Delays: Denver International Airport (DEN)

    Photo: Steve Hamblin / Alamy

    11 of 12

    Worst: No. 5 Denver International Airport (DEN)

    Flights Delayed: 23.3%

    Denver International—known for its art installations and quirky aesthetics—now has the added feature of occasionally making time stand still. In the evenings, your odds of departing late are 1 in 3. There is a bright side: its period of morning efficiency (fewer than 15 percent of flights delayed) lasts until a pretty civilized 10 a.m.

    Best Time Window: Before 10 a.m.

    Worst Time Window: 5–9 p.m.

    See More Business Travel Ideas

  •  

    12 of 12

  • America's Best and Worst Airports for Delays:

    See More Business Travel Ideas

    Weather. Traffic. Traffic due to weather. Shep Hyken has heard all the usual excuses for flight delays, especially when he’s in Chicago.

    “I have more delays at O’Hare than any other airport,” says the St. Louis–based customer service consultant. The most maddening explanations, he adds, are almost surreal. “It amazes me when a flight attendant or captain can’t be found,” he says. “I’ve even heard, ‘We’ve lost the plane.’”

    No surprise, O’Hare is contending with the likes of Newark and Dallas–Fort Worth to be the most-delayed airport in the nation, according to Department of Transportation statistics (July 2012 through June 2013).

    Most major airports reported some increase in delayed departures—defined as leaving at least 15 minutes late—and a few airports got seriously caught in the time-space continuum.

    To boost your odds of leaving on schedule, we looked at the airports’ hour-by-hour stats to find the most punctual time frames and the best times to avoid.

    Resourceful travelers, meanwhile, have learned to game the system. Virginia-based travel blogger Becky Pokora says she schedules super-tight connections in O’Hare, knowing they’ll likely get stretched out. “It hasn’t backfired yet,” she says.

  • Best: No. 1 Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)

    Flights Delayed: 11.7%

    The Utah hub has reached the pinnacle of punctuality four times since 2008, and with good reason: your odds of being delayed rise above 10 percent only for one hour before noon, and approach the 25 percent threshold for just two hours during the entire day. The only bad news: overall delays are still up by 2.5 percentage points year over year.

    Best Time Window: Before noon.

    Worst Time Window: 6–8 p.m.

    See More Business Travel Ideas

  • America's Best and Worst Airports for Delays: Portland International Airport (PDX)

    Best: No. 2 Portland International Airport (PDX)

    Flights Delayed: 12.5%

    For a city that prides itself on being mellow, this Oregon airport surprisingly cracks the whip—in a good way. For six years, PDX has held the No. 2 position, and it’s hard to complain when its on-time departure rate never dips below 79 percent. During the first hour of the day, PDX has one of the highest on-time percentages of all the major airports—a near-spotless 96 percent.

    Best Time Window: Before 10 a.m.

    Worst Time Window: 2–3 p.m.

  • America's Best and Worst Airports for Delays: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

    Best: No. 3 Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

    Flights Delayed: 13.1%

    Who cares about a little (or even a lot of) rain? The seemingly Gore-Tex–encased airport has previously been No. 1 for on-time departures, and this year comes in at No. 3, with a small uptick in tardiness. Airport workers may be helping themselves to second cups of morning coffee: on-time success rates stay above 85 percent until almost noon, and never go below 80 percent all day.

    Best Time Window: Before 11 a.m.

    Worst Time Window: 4–5 p.m.

  • America's Best and Worst Airports for Delays: Minneapolis-St. Paul International (MSP)

    Best: No. 4 Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport (MSP)

    Flights Delayed: 13.8%

    Last year, the Twin Cities airport boosted its on-time performance by a dazzling seven percentage points, jetting into the top five for the first time in years. This year, the airport shed two of those points, but still offers a wide range of reliable departure times. Morning is the most delay-proof, but your chances of an on-time departure stay in the 80 percent range all afternoon.

    Best Time Window: Before noon.

    Worst Time Window: 7–9 p.m.

  • America's Best and Worst Airports for Delays: Reagan National Airport (DCA)

    Best: No. 5 Reagan National Airport (DCA)

    Flights Delayed: 15.4%

    Who says that no one can get anything done in our nation’s capital? Even after skidding three points overall, the D.C. airport’s on-time performance hovers around 85 percent until 2 in the afternoon. Just be sure to beat it from the Beltway by dinnertime.

    Best Time Window: Before 2 p.m.

    Worst Time Window: 9–10 p.m.

  • America's Best and Worst Airports for Delays: Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)

    Worst: No. 1 Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)

    Flights Delayed: 27.3%

    The Windy City’s less-notorious airport ranked as third for the most delays last year. A seven-point plunge has given it this year’s trophy for tardiness. Ironically, the airport actually starts the day with gusto, averaging a less-than-10-percent chance of delays for three whole hours. But things almost methodically deteriorate as the day wears on (and on, if you’re sitting there). By 11 p.m., your odds of leaving late are at 74 percent.

    Best Time Window: Before 8 a.m.

    Worst Time Window: 6–11 p.m.

    See More Business Travel Ideas

  • America's Best and Worst Airports for Delays: Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD)

    Worst: No. 2 Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

    Flights Delayed: 25.9%

    Over the past few years, O’Hare has worked hard to rehabilitate its rogue reputation: last year, it ranked at an almost-respectable sixth worst. But the hub seems to have fallen back into its old ways, dropping six points in productivity. By late evening, you could just as easily flip a coin to find out whether you should start heading to the gate or looking for a place to sleep.

    Best Time Window: Before 8 a.m.

    Worst Time Window: 4 p.m.–midnight.

  • America's Best and Worst Airports for Delays: Newark International Airport (EWR)

    Worst: No. 3 Newark International Airport (EWR)

    Flights Delayed: 25.7%

    Last year’s No. 1 airport for delays slipped another two percentage points this year, thanks largely to the Chicago airports, which did even worse by comparison. On a typical afternoon here, you have at least a 25 percent chance of wishing you’d picked one of the other NYC-area airports. (JFK’s overall delay rate is a less depressing 20.1 percent, and LaGuardia’s is a downright reasonable 17.6.)

    Best Time Window: Before 9 a.m.

    Worst Time Window: After 5 p.m.

  • America's Best and Worst Airports for Delays: Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

    Worst: No. 4 Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

    Flights Delayed: 23.6%

    The sprawling Texas hub lost six percentage points in its on-time score this year. If you think you can outrun the five-o’clock crowds by leaving mid-afternoon, bad news: traffic starts seriously slowing by 2 p.m. and doesn’t pick up again until the next morning.

    Best Time Window: Before 9 a.m.

    Worst Time Window: After 6 p.m.

  • America's Best and Worst Airports for Delays: Denver International Airport (DEN)

    Worst: No. 5 Denver International Airport (DEN)

    Flights Delayed: 23.3%

    Denver International—known for its art installations and quirky aesthetics—now has the added feature of occasionally making time stand still. In the evenings, your odds of departing late are 1 in 3. There is a bright side: its period of morning efficiency (fewer than 15 percent of flights delayed) lasts until a pretty civilized 10 a.m.

    Best Time Window: Before 10 a.m.

    Worst Time Window: 5–9 p.m.

    See More Business Travel Ideas

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