The 12 U.S. Airports With the Worst Delays

Written by Justin Sexton
Published: November 9, 2023
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The holiday season is here and that means one thing: many people will travel to visit their relatives, friends, and significant other’s relatives, or have solo trips to bring in Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve. People become more thankful than at any other time of the year to be around their loved ones. However, for every good flight during the holidays, there are plenty of delays that happen simultaneously.

Denver International Airport At Dusk

©Peterquinn925, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

MarketWatch said that “on average, around twenty-five percent of holiday season flights are either delayed or canceled.” Just like that one scene from Home Alone, flights can be booked for several days. The number one reason flights are delayed or canceled around this time of the year is because of inclement weather. The Washington Post covered airport delays in 2022 and how worse they got in a five-year span. 19.8% of flights at twenty major airports were canceled on December 23rd, 2022. The Washington Post had a graph on their airport delays and it showed that the 2022 delays and cancellations were higher than any other year. The closest year that compared to 2022 was 2015.

Marketwatch surveyed travelers on their main concerns for flying during the holiday season. The number one concern for travelers in flying is flight delays. Outside of the holiday season, flight delays are a normal thing as well. In some cases, system glitches can result in many cancellations and delays. Back in January 2023, a corrupted data file resulted in over ten thousand flights around the United States being delayed.

What Are Some Of The Worst U.S. Airports With Delays?

Generali Travel Insurance gathered data as late as December 2022 on airport travel statistics with flight delays and cancellations. The reports also measured other statistics such as tarmac delays, luggage issues, customer complaints, and on-time performance. Below is a brief list of the ten most delayed airports throughout the year through those studies.

  • Chicago Midway International Airport (47% delayed)
  • Denver International Airport (43%)
  • Baltimore-Washington International (42%)
  • Dallas Love Field (42%)
  • Seattle-Tacoma Airport (38%)
  • Harry Reid International (38%)
  • Orlando International (37%)
  • Fort Lauderdale Airport (37%)
  • Newark Liberty International (35%)
  • Nashville International Airport (32.9%)

Chicago Midway International Airport, Chicago IL

Aerial view of Midway Airport and the south side of Chicago

Image: John McAdorey, Shutterstock

©John McAdorey/Shutterstock.com

Midway International Airport in Chicago, Illinois experiences delays in the summer and wintertime due to thunderstorms and snowstorms. The airport has experienced eighty-minute delays in the past due to thunderstorms. The Chicago Midway International Airport is the second busiest airport in Illinois, only behind Chicago O’Hare International. Chicago Midway International provides flights to seventy-seven different domestic locations alongside eleven international destinations. On average, they get roughly seven million travelers every single year.

Travel + Leisure also reported the reasons why Chicago Midway had the most flight delays and cancellations in the United States. They expected it due to a surge of people willing to travel as the pandemic restrictions were lifted, especially during the 2022 summer season. The airport has suggested that travelers should get a protection plan on their ticket to ensure they will get their money back. Chicago Midway was ranked as the sixth-worst airport in the United States. Sixty percent of their flights this year have been delayed. The average delay time was 74.75 minutes.

Denver International Airport In Denver, CO

Denver International Airport (DIA) Glowing Tents

Glowing tents of DIA at sunrise. Denver International Airport is well known for its peaked roof. The design of the roof reflects snow-capped mountains.

©Arina P Habich/Shutterstock.com

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the largest airport in the United States is on this list. It sits on top of thirty-three thousand acres of land and provides travelers with many different airlines. Denver International is also the third busiest airport in the United States. They have twenty-four different airlines that can take people to over two hundred different destinations.

Denver International deals with severe snowstorms that delay many flights on a regular basis. A recent snowstorm in 2021 closed the Denver runways for twenty-four hours with 27.1 inches of snow. It’s at the point where 43% of their flights experience some type of delay every year. Between the week of December 23, 2022, and December 29th, 2022, Denver International delayed twenty percent of their flights and cancelled 13.4% of their flights. This year, Denver International had 56.59 percent of its flights delayed with an average delay time of 88.4 minutes via AirAdvisor. AirAdvisor also had Denver as the sixth worst airport in the United States. At least they have plenty of galleries, shops, and even an ice skating rink that visitors can experience while dealing with delays.

Baltimore-Washington International Airport In Baltimore, MD

Aerial view approaching the Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Maryland.

Image: RaksyBH, Shutterstock

©RaksyBH/Shutterstock.com

Baltimore Washington International is a popular airport for people to go to when Washington Dulles International or the Ronald Reagan International Airport gets too busy. The airport was one of many airports impacted by an FAA system shutdown in 2023 which resulted in over ten thousand flights being delayed all over.

More than nine million people visit the airport each year which serves as a base for Southwest Airlines. In 2022, Southwest Airlines ranked as the highest airline company with cancellation rates in December. Southwest Airlines canceled thirty-eight percent of their total flights between December 23rd and December 29th of that year. That was the most for any North American airline in that time span. Besides Southwest Airlines, there are plenty of other airline carriers at Baltimore Washington International. Some of them are Delta Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines, Spirit, and Air Canada.

Dallas Love Field Airport

Dallas Green Road Sign and Airplane Above with Dramatic Blue Sky and Clouds.

An airplane flying over a Dallas road sign.

©Andy Dean Photography/Shutterstock.com

Dallas Love Field was third in total flight delays last year with forty-two percent of delays. One of the main reasons for delays at Dallas Love Field is extreme weather and wind conditions. The state experiences harsh thunderstorms around the summertime, especially when its desert climate is at its hottest and dryest.

In August of this year, both Dallas Love Field and Dallas Fort Worth experienced delays that lasted several hours. The NBC news affiliate for Dallas reported that a great amount of hail hit the greater Dallas area. At one point that day, they were on tornado watch due to the extreme wind conditions. Once they opened their runways again, it still took several hours for both airports to overcome the delays. Love Field was also affected by the FAA shutdown Baltimore Washington International experienced. Most of the flights canceled because of that shutdown were Southwest Airlines.

Dallas Fort Worth is a much larger airport than Dallas Love Field. Locally, Love Field has a higher delay rate than the Dallas Fort Worth. For example, in December of 2022, Love Field experienced 206 cancellations and 16 delays. In comparison, Dallas Fort Worth had 14 cancellations and 45 delays.

There are some things to consider about smaller airports in regard to delays and cancellations. They usually have smaller staffs compared to larger airports. They also have smaller amounts of airlines available compared to the larger airports. For example: if Southwest Airlines is experiencing cancellations at several airports, it can affect those airports differently. Southwest Airlines can more flights for one airport than another. Therefore, if one airport relies on Southwest more than another due to that one having more airlines, the cancellation rates and numbers will be higher.

Seattle Tacoma International Airport, Seattle Washington

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport from the air with the southern end of Puget Sound in late afternoon light

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is the busiest airport in the Pacific Northwest.

©Kenneth Sponsler/Shutterstock.com

Seattle-Tacoma International is one of the largest airports in the Pacific Northwest. The Generali Travel Insurance reported that thirty-eight percent of their flights in the year were delayed. Like Denver International, Seattle-Tacoma faces harsh weather like snowstorms and thunderstorms. The staff has two contractors that help with snow removal.

The airport is also known for very long TSA lines, but that’s common with the size of it and others alike across the nation. They provide international flights to many different destinations and acts as a central hub for the Pacific Northwest. Seattle-Tacoma even connects several flights from Canadian and Alaskan airports.

The Washington Post reported that Seattle-Tacoma had the most cancellations last holiday season. 18.5% of flights were canceled between December 23rd and December 29th. That was the highest percentage in the nation. That same week, 15.2% of flights were delayed. A major cause of those cancellations was heavy ice being on the runways along with a storm warning. What helped Seattle overcome those cancellations and delays were warmer temperatures melting the ice later in the week.

Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada

Harry Reid International Airport, Paradise, Nevada

An airplane at the Harry Reid runway

©Kit Leong/Shutterstock.com

The Harry Reid International Airport is a hot spot for incoming celebrities and tourists every year. Whether it’s to watch a boxing match attend a Raiders game or visit The Strip, Vegas has everything. Last year, Harry Reid International also had thirty-eight percent of their flights delayed. The Washington Post reported that eleven percent of their Christmas week flights in 2022 were canceled; thirteen percent of their flights that same week were delayed.

Vegas travelers can experience delays due to low visibility in the sky and thunderstorms. Recently, the airport experienced delays as they had to perform runway maintenance. It’s something that must be done every ten to fifteen years. However, it needs to be maintained so airplanes can land and take off safely. The maintenance takes thirty to forty-five days to complete. The top airline that has the most cancellations and delays at Harry Reid is Southwest.

Orlando International Airport In Orlando, Florida

Interior atrium of Orlando International Airport

Interior atrium of Orlando International Airport.

©Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

Orlando International is a Florida airport that deals with many delays and cancellations. The Orlando airport dealt with thirty-seven percent of their flights being delayed. Twenty-three percent of their flights were delayed in the 2022 Christmas week. They had to cancel 10.4% of their flights that week. What are some causes of Orlando’s delays? They rarely deal with snow.

Orlando, Florida’s climate is well known for its hurricane seasons. That’s usually the main reason why delays happen. But there are unusual reasons as to why delays happen at the Florida airport. That and issues with jet fuel.

In the summer, Orlando International was also short-staffed. Being short-staffed and inclement weather created delays as bad as three and a half hours. Orlando experienced some unusual delay reasons. One time, they closed a runway to clean up the remains of a destroyed armadillo. The fatal accident caused one runway to be closed for twenty minutes. What was worse that day was that it happened at 7 a.m., which is one of Orlando’s busiest times for traffic. Therefore, delays occurred on several flights for thirty to sixty minutes. On average in 2023, Orlando travelers experienced delays of 92.75 minutes.

Fort Lauderdale Airport In Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Aerial view of Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood International Airport, USA

Aerial view of Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood International Airport, USA

©Nejron Photo/Shutterstock.com

The Fort Lauderdale Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida is a slightly smaller airport than the Orlando International Airport. But, like the Dallas Love Field versus the Dallas Fort Worth Airport, they can face similar problems. Hurricane season can delay plenty of flights and even cancel flights. Thirty-seven percent of the Fort Lauderdale flights in 2022 were delayed. AirAdvisor also tracked the air routes that have the most delays and Fort Lauderdale appeared on that list. The Fort Lauderdale route that takes travelers to Newark averages a delay of two hours. The airline that had the worst delay in Fort Lauderdale was United Airlines. This Florida airport isn’t an exception to rather unusual delays. A massive fishing boat once delayed flights because it was stuck between two arrival gates. What better way to know that you’re in Florida, right?

Newark Liberty International in Newark, New Jersey

AERIAL, CLOSE UP: Flying above airplanes parked on apron waiting for passengers to board through jetway and start their traveling journey. Terminal building on New York Newark international airport

Newark Airport has been ranked the worst major airport in the U.S.

©Flystock/Shutterstock.com

The Newark International Airport experienced thirty-five percent of its flights being delayed in 2022. Newark was one of the most delayed route locations with Fort Lauderdale in 2023. AirAdvisor has Newark as the third worst airport in the United States behind the Chicago Midway International Airport and John F. Kennedy International. In 2023, 59.6% of their flights did not arrive on time with an average delay time of ninety-seven minutes.

What causes these delays at Newark? In June, severe storms resulted in thirty percent of the airport’s flights being delayed and another thirty percent being canceled! United Airlines had technical issues in September which led to many cancellations at the airport. There was even a story of an outraged traveler who drove from Newark to another airport to take a plane to his destination. She drove from Newark to Charlotte, NC to fly to New Orleans and she still didn’t get her bags at New Orleans.

Some other considerations to the delays Newark had this year were the unusual Canadian wildfires that affected the upper half of the United States and the recurring summer thunderstorms in New Jersey/New York.

Nashville International Airport In Nashville, TN

Traffic signs indicating the directions to Nashville and Indianapolis on highway 65, viewed from under a bridge in Louisville, Kentucky.

Traffic signs indicating the directions to Nashville and Indianapolis on Highway 65, viewed from under a bridge in Louisville, Kentucky.

©Ivelin Denev/Shutterstock.com

Nashville International Airport had 32.9% of its total flights delayed in 2022. Nashville is a popular tourist airport as it helps people get to and from one of music’s most famous cities. In September of this year, Nashville experienced an increase in international flight delays from United and delays and cancellations of flights through Southwest Airlines. They have risen 5.6% in the past twelve months. The 32.9% in flight delays means that almost one in every three flights are delayed at the airport.

Two major reasons are that post-pandemic jet and pilot shortages are stretching the airport’s staff thin. There’s also a social media study that Forbes conducted between March 2022 and 2023 by Forbes. Forbes found that Nashville International was one of the main airports talked about on social media for their services. Most of the complaints were related to passengers, security, and traffic. Nashville also deals with snowstorms that close the runways at different times.

Two Other Airports With Terrible Delays In 2023

Outside of the ten airports mentioned earlier, there are two airports that have terrible delay times. These two airports are called the worst airports via AirAdvisor. They are John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport in New York City.

John F. Kennedy International Airport

JFK has a negative reputation for delays and cancellations. In 2023, JFK had over 146 delayed routes along with sixty-one percent of their flights being delayed. The average time length for a delayed flight at JFK is 104.33 minutes! JFK has over seventy different airlines and some of their heavy hitters such as Delta Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Spirit. JFK is no victim to natural weather delays such as snowstorms, thunderstorms, or even flooding.

However, JFK experienced a massive power outage in February which resulted in many flights having to turn back around mid-flight. Another delay they had earlier this year was an unusual situation. Due to the pilot crew smelling fumes, they canceled a Hawaiian flight and those passengers were stuck for thirty-three hours. A common reason for JFK’s delays is due to air traffic. JFK has to compete with Newark and LaGuardia for airspace so they can safely depart from and arrive at the airports in a timely fashion. They’re also short-staffed at the moment for the 5,200-acre airport.

LaGuardia Airport

This other Queens airport is the fifth worst airport in the United States via AirAdvisor for its delays. In 2023, LaGuardia Airport had 135 routes delayed. They also had 58.14% of their total flights delayed. Their average delay time was 102 minutes. It’s not as busy as John F. Kennedy International but it still picks up plenty of domestic and international traffic.

There are two considerations when it comes to judging why they had all those delays. The Canadian Wildfires affected a good portion of the United States and the air travel in and out of the country. Another consideration has to be the unfortunate flooding that affected the city that never sleeps. Not only did it shut down air travel, but it also impacted the subways, buses, trains, and cars traveling from point A to point B. Sometimes, LaGuardia will have extreme storms that can cause massive delays and cancellations. A severe storm in August delayed 273 flights and canceled 246 flights. Another reason for their long delays is due to air traffic. LaGuardia has to share the airways with the residing JFK and Newark airports

LaGuardia is a small 680-acre airport with three terminals and seventy-two gates. They serve seventeen million passengers annually and their two main airlines are Delta and American Airlines.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Thomas Barrat/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Justin is an A-Z Animals Writer that loves to cover places, unique natural disasters, and travel. He has eight years of experience as a writer in the medical and media fields. He wrote for the likes of VCU Health, theMSQshop, PayDay LA, and Comic Book Resources under the penname Jay Guevara. Although he's a full time writer, Justin graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2019 with a Bachelors in Health, Physical Education, and Exercise Science with a background in Community Engagement. After spending over two decades in Richmond, Virginia, Justin now resides in the suburbs of Rancho Cucamonga, California. He's a dedicated gymrat. He's also a two-time poetry author who's influenced by rappers Joe Budden and IDK along with Dante Alighieri.

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