What are the Worst Times to Fly from U.S. Airports? Much has been written about the best days to travel to avoid flight cancellations/delays and high fares. On average, Tuesdays tend to have the fewest disruptions and are one of the cheapest days to fly during non-holiday periods, with Wednesdays and Saturdays also inexpensive for domestic travel, while during early summer 2022, Thursdays and Fridays were the worst days when it came to cancelled flights.
But it's better to disaggregate the data and pinpoint the worst U.S. airports and worst times to fly, to reduce the chance of disruptions affecting your flight.
Worst Times to Fly
It should surprise no one that you're more likely to depart on time, without delays, on an early morning flight, ideally the first one of the day. That's because there tend to be fewer night flights, so your aircraft may have been parked at the airport for several hours, and not subject to the cascading delays that tend to occur during the day, when a delayed incoming aircraft results in subsequent delays.
That said, some airports show a much starker difference than others. For example, at LaGuardia (LGA) nearly 87% of flights between 6am-6:59am in July 2022 departed on time, while between 10-10:59pm only 34% of flights departed on time, a difference of over 50 percentage points. By contrast, at Salt Lake City (SLC), nearly 90% of flights between 6am-6:59am departed on time, and between 10-10:59pm over 86% of flights departed on time, only a 4 percentage points difference.
Looking at the busiest U.S. airports, such as ATL, DFW, DEN, ORD, LAX, CLT, and MCO, you want to depart before 9am and ideally before 8am. If you must fly later than that, late morning is still typically better than afternoon and evening flights. These are the times to avoid:
- ATL: 4pm and later departures, as on-time departures ranged from 59-67%
- BOS: 1-11pm departures, on-time ranges from 54-77%
- BWI: 1-11pm departures, on-time ranges from 21-61%
- CLT: 1-11pm departures, on-time ranges from 40-76%
- DEN: 2-11pm departures, on-time ranges from 47-61%
- DFW: 1-11pm departures, on-time ranges from 58-72%
- EWR: 2-11pm departures, on-time ranges from 44-69%
- FLL: 1-11pm departures, on-time ranges from 58-71%
- IAD: 2-11pm departures, on-time ranges from 61-77%
- IAH: 1-11pm departures, on-time ranges from 66-79%
- JFK: 1-11pm departures, on-time ranges from 41-69%
- LAS: 1-11pm departures, on-time ranges from 37-56%
- LAX: 3-11pm departures, on-time ranges from 69-76%
- MIA: 4-11pm departures, on-time ranges from 60-69%
- ORD: 3-11pm departures, on-time ranges from 64-72%
- PHX: 3-11pm departures, on-time ranges from 41-69%
- SFO: 12 noon-11pm departures, on-time departures are 76-79%
Top 10 Worst U.S. Airports for Flight Delays
While departure times at a given airport dramatically can influence your chances of an on-time departure, there are also significant differences among airports. Here are the ones we recommend avoiding if at all possible, ranked by the worst on-time departure record for July 2022, with December 2021 in parentheses, for purposes of comparison. The worst on the list is Chicago Midway, where only 55% of flights departed on time, with 45% of flights delayed.
- Chicago Midway MDW: 55% (69%)
- Baltimore BWI: 60% (67%)
- Las Vegas LAS: 64% (64%)
- Orlando MCO: 66% (72%)
- Denver DEN: 66% (62%)
- Charlotte CLT: 67% (87%)
- New York JFK: 68% (77%)
- Newark EWR: 70% (62%)
- New York LGA: 71% (84%)
- Dallas DFW: 73% (79%)
What's your experience with on-time departures at different times of day and at some of these airports?
Long Airline Hold Times? Chat or Text
Updated: Best and Worst Airlines for Peanut and Nut Allergies
United Polaris Business Class Review, 777-200
If you enjoyed this, join 200,000+ readers: follow TravelSort on Twitter or like us on Facebook to be alerted to new posts.
Subscribe to TravelSort on YouTube for travel inspiration.
Become a TravelSort Client and Book 5-Star Hotels with Virtuoso or Four Seasons Preferred Partner Benefits