“Waiting in lines can really drain [the] holiday spirit.”

By Alison Fox
November 22, 2019
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Thanksgiving evokes images of turkey, family, pie and ... crazy, busy airports.

The fall holiday is the busiest time of the year to fly around the country and this Thanksgiving in particular is predicted to be the busiest ever with the Transportation Security Administration expecting 26.8 million passengers between November 22 and December 4.

Crowded airports could be compounded by rain and snow, which are forecasted to hit starting this weekend.

And not all airports are created equal when it comes to wait times for U.S. passengers arriving on international flights. Using the data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, travel app Mobile Passport analyzed the best and worst wait times throughout the country, referencing the 12 days around 2018's Thanksgiving to predict what this year could look like.

Courtesy of Mobile Passport

Average wait times for U.S. passengers ranged significantly from 4.9 to 44.4 minutes, but at times they could top out even higher. Newark Liberty International Airport, for example, recorded a maximum wait time of 180 minutes during that time period, the highest in the country.

The best bet for arriving international flights? Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport had the shortest wait times with an average of only 4.9 minutes, or 18.7 minutes at the busiest times. That was followed by San Jose, Baltimore/Washington (BWI), Charlotte Douglas, and Philadelphia.

"It doesn't matter whether you're arriving in the U.S. at a huge airport or one with smaller passenger volume,” Hans Miller, Mobile Passport’s CEO and co-founder, said. “Waiting in lines can really drain [the] holiday spirit.”

If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, the travel savvy app suggests arriving between 10 and 11 p.m. or 1 and 2 a.m. when the average maximum wait times were the lowest, while the worst times to arrive were between 4 and 6 a.m.

While traveling during the Thanksgiving period can mean a headache at the airport, traveling internationally for the holiday can generate great deals. And if all else fails, you can always look for a decent meal in the airport.

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