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Airport Booking Strategy

The 10 Most Delay-Prone Airports in the U.S.

Ever wonder how much of your life you’ve wasted sitting around at the airport? Financebuzz.com compiled a list of the worst delay-prone U.S. airports of 2018, with overall delay times displayed in the collective amount of years they’ve added up to for travelers overall. And the results are not encouraging: Rankings are based on a composite of total passengers, percentage of flights delayed, and the average length of delay for the top 25 airports.

Some takeaways: The measures of total passenger-time wasted in delays last year amounted to some staggering numbers: 1,133 years at Chicago O’Hare, 991 years at Atlanta, and more than 500 years at the others.

Years Travelers Spent Waiting at Delay-Prone Airports Last Year

Airport Collective time
passengers were
delayed (in 2018)
1 Chicago O’Hare International
Airport (ORD)
1,133 years
2 Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta
International Airport (ATL)
991 years
3 Dallas/Fort Worth International
Airport (DFW)
872 years
4 Denver International Airport
(DEN)
792 years
5 San Francisco International
Airport (SFO)
654 years
6 Los Angeles International
Airport (LAX)
651 years
7 Orlando International Airport
(MCO)
617 years
8 Newark Liberty International
Airport (EWR)
601 years
9 Boston Logan International
Airport (BOS)
551 years
10 Charlotte Douglas International
Airport (CLT)
542 years

The results are similar to AirHelp’s 2019 ranking of the worst airports for flight delays. The most delay-prone airports are also the nation’s busiest hub airports, which should come as no surprise. The top five and eight of the top 10 are a major hub for at least one airline, with non-hub Los Angeles and Las Vegas also making the top 10 of AirHelp’s study.

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Among the key hub airports, Chicago O’Hare suffered the highest percentage of delayed flights, at 33 percent; no other delay-prone airport cracked the 30 percent level. Among the airports where travelers were less likely to face a delayed flight, in the range of 16 to 19 percent, were Atlanta, Detroit, Houston/Bush, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St Paul, and Seattle-Tacoma. Travelers making hub connections faced fewer delays at Minneapolis-St Paul, Detroit, Chicago/Midway, and Miami than at the airports at the top of the list. You can see the full rankings and top 25 most delay-prone airports here.

Another astounding finding: Average delays at the 25 airports were all more than 50 minutes, with 11 at 70 minutes or more. As I’ve often said, airport statistics like these are useful if you have a choice of hub airports or a choice among multiple airports in a metro area. When you can avoid these airports, you should make it happen.

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.

By Ed Perkins

A nationally recognized reporter, writer, and consumer advocate, Ed Perkins focuses on how travelers can find the best deals and avoid scams.

He is the author of "Online Travel" (2000) and "Business Travel: When It's Your Money" (2004), the first step-by-step guide specifically written for small business and self-employed professional travelers. He was also the co-author of the annual "Best Travel Deals" series from Consumers Union.

Perkins' advice for business travelers is featured on MyBusinessTravel.com, a website devoted to helping small business and self-employed professional travelers find the best value for their travel dollars.

Perkins was founding editor of Consumer Reports Travel Letter, one of the country's most influential travel publications, from which he retired in 1998. He has also written for Business Traveller magazine (London).

Perkins' travel expertise has led to frequent television appearances, including ABC's "Good Morning America" and "This Week with David Brinkley," "The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather," CNN, and numerous local TV and radio stations.

Before editing Consumer Reports Travel Letter, Perkins spent 25 years in travel research and consulting with assignments ranging from national tourism development strategies to the design of computer-based tourism models.

Born in Evanston, Illinois, Perkins lives in Ashland, Oregon with his wife.

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