The 10 best and worst US airports for flight disruptions this summer

By Lebawit Lily Girma | Bloomberg

If you’re excited about summer travel yet dreading the crowded airport experience, you’re right to be anxious. More than 24 million Americans will depart from US airports during the July 4 holiday period alone, according to travel booking app Hopper, nearly double the amount projected for the same period in 2022. The number of American travelers flying this summer is also predicted to surpass pre-pandemic levels.

This means knowing how US airports rank on flight disruptions comes in handy, even if you’ve already chosen your destination. For starters: Las Vegas took the national crown for the most flight disruptions in May, according to new data from air passenger rights—and reimbursement—company AirHelp Inc.

AirHelp looked at just more than 673,000 international and domestic flights from the 672 US airports servicing more than 5,000 flights in May.

Harry Reid International Airport had 35% of its flights disrupted, the data shows. Closely following for delays are Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Denver International Airport, Honolulu International Airport and Orlando International Airport.

Notably absent from the list of airports to avoid: New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport, as well as Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, all three of which had topped the list of worst airports for disruption in August 2022.

There’s a pattern to discern from AirHelp’s data, and it’s unsurprising: Disruptions point to destinations that are major tourism hubs and big cities. Las Vegas, Denver and Orlando rank in the top 10 busiest airports in the US for the July 4 weekend, Hopper’s data confirms.

“Airports that in the spring have heavy traffic, like Orlando, oftentimes haven’t adjusted the staffing in order to handle that peak season,” says Eric Napoli, vice president of legal strategy at AirHelp. “You’ll see those types of airports performing particularly poorly.” Kauai’s Lihue Municipal Airport in Hawaii is another example, he says—a small airport that suddenly had to deal with very big volumes in May.

Besides understaffing, weather-related issues can affect hub airports more than smaller or secondary airports. That may explain why some of the best performing airports in May included LaGuardia Airport and Raleigh-Durham International Airport. One exception is Philadelphia International Airport, which performed well in the May travel rush.

Of course, flight disruptions aren’t the only obstacle you’re likely to face given the challenges surrounding US air transportation since 2020. Those include staffing shortages, shifting summer weather patterns that create a domino effect on cancelled flights from connecting hubs and slow-moving security lines that even a Clear Secure Inc. annual subscription can’t always help you avoid. Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration said it’s increased its staffing and will move screeners to busy airports ahead of the rush.

President Biden announced in May that the federal government would draft new rules for airline compensation to consumers in the event of canceled or severely delayed flights. “What we really hope is that with the legislation, if that happens, we’ll see a real positive impact in terms of passengers being more comfortable with getting on a plane and knowing that there’s something the airline will do,” in case of flight disruptions, AirHelp’s Napoli says.

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