10 Most Insanely Busy Airports During Thanksgiving

Busiest Airports
© A-Z-Animals.com/AZ Animals

Written by Marisa Higgins

Published: November 21, 2023

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While Thanksgiving is a time for families and friends to gather and express gratitude, the holiday also kicks off one of the busiest travel periods in the United States. Whether by car or plane, people are eager to arrive at their destination. For those Americans who are distanced from their loved ones, flying is often the best method of transportation. Millions of Americans take to the skies during the Thanksgiving season, many of which will encounter one of the busiest airports in the United States. Let’s explore the 10 most insanely busy airports during Thanksgiving.

10. Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) – Las Vegas, Nevada

McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas is a prime holiday destination for many travelers passing through the LAS airport.

©Tomás Del Coro from Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons - License

Although the Harry Reid International Airport will be in full force this Thanksgiving season, the airport is mainly concerned about providing customers with enough parking. LAS recommends parking further out and taking a shuttle to the main terminal. In particular, LAS makes the list of insanely busy airports because the allure of Las Vegas is a prime holiday destination, adding to the airport’s increased traffic during Thanksgiving.

9. Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) – Charlotte, North Carolina

Busy central concourse at Charlotte Douglas International airport

The rocking chairs are a key trademark of the Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

©Mystic Stock Photography/Shutterstock.com

Charlotte Douglas International Airport typically sees Thanksgiving travel kick off about a week or so before the actual holiday. The airport intends to serve over 800,000 passengers during the week of Thanksgiving. With the extra traveler traffic expected, CLT has added extra staff in Departures/Ticketing as well as on curbside to assist with customers. Seeing as CLT only has 20,000 parking spaces, customers are encouraged to book parking in advance to ensure they have a spot. The Charlotte Airport is one of many airports to expect the busiest Thanksgiving season ever.

8. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) – Seattle, Washington

Seattle Tacoma Airport

The SEA airport is undergoing renovations to accommodate growth in the Pacific Northwest.


The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is currently amid its Upgrade SEA initiative to match the region’s unprecedented growth. The SEA is an important airport in the Pacific Northwest, and in 2023, the airport has seen an 11% increase since its 2022 levels. The airport expects to see over 300,000 passengers during Thanksgiving week, and SEA’s recent renovations might cause some congestion with the influx of travelers. The Port of Seattle sees passenger volume increase around 9 a.m., 2-5 p.m., and 9-11 p.m. If you’re planning to travel out of the SEA this Thanksgiving, be sure to get there early to avoid delays!

7. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) – San Francisco, California

San Francisco International Airport aerial view

76% of SFO’s passengers are flying domestic, whereas 24% are flying international.


San Francisco International Airport anticipates over 144,000 passengers to travel through its airport. With so many expected travelers, SFO is offering a discount on parking for those who book in advance. SFO’s role as a Pacific hub makes it a crucial airport in connecting families during the busy Thanksgiving travel times.

6. John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) New York, New York

Aerial view of JFK airport, New York

The JFK airport was originally named the Idlewild Airport.

©EarthScape ImageGraphy/Shutterstock.com

One of two major airports in New York City, John F. Kennedy International Airport is a major Eastcoast hub. JFK expects to see an increase in travelers, particularly on the Sunday following Thanksgiving.

5. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) – Dallas, Texas

Dallas Forth Worth Airport Aerial View

The DFW Airport is one of the most frequently visited hubs in the world.

©Todd MacDonald, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons - License

The Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport welcomes an increased number of passengers during Thanksgiving. DFW serves as a major connecting hub in the southern United States. With increased holiday travel, DFW has become a focal point for travelers heading to various destinations across the country. The airport boasts excellent facilities, which lends to DFW being in high demand as a connecting airport.

4. Denver International Airport (DEN) – Denver, Colorado

Denver International Airport (DIA) Glowing Tents

The Denver Airport is a work of art with numerous art installations and a giant Mustang statue.

©Arina P Habich/Shutterstock.com

The second-largest airport in the world is the Denver International Airport, coming in at 13,570 hectares of land, or 52.4 square miles. This airport is the fourth busiest airport during Thanksgiving. DEN has unique architecture, and the airport sees an uptick in travelers during the holiday season. In 2023, DEN plans to see at least 800,000 travelers enter through security and fly domestically or internationally this Thanksgiving. The Denver International Airport is one of the most populous airports in the western United States, and this Thanksgiving the increase in travelers will certainly be felt.

3. Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) – Chicago, Illinois

Chicago O'Hare International Airport electric neon tunnel

Built in 1944, the ORD airport covers 7,200 acres.


Chicago O’Hare International Airport is a major hub in the Midwest. During Thanksgiving, the airport sees an increase in passenger traffic. The airport is poised to welcome more than 1.5 million customers this holiday, between the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and the Monday afterward. In 2023, O’Hare expects to see a passenger increase of 1.5%, and airline projections anticipate the Sunday after Thanksgiving to be the biggest travel day with over 200,000 passengers flying home.

2. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) – Los Angeles, California

Airplanes in Los Angeles International airport LAX apron. California, USA

When the first iteration of LAX was built, it was called Mines Field and only had a dirt runway.

©Gabriele Maltinti/Shutterstock.com

Los Angeles International Airport is one of the top five busiest airports in the United States and it becomes a chaotic scene of bustling passengers during Thanksgiving. This year, LAX expects to see nearly 2.5 million passengers pass through within the two weeks before and after Thanksgiving. LAX continues to remain one of the most traveled airports, and its location makes it a convenient and strategic location for domestic and international flights. This Thanksgiving, LAX expects to see an increase of at least 200,000 passengers compared to 2022.

1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) – Atlanta, Georgia

Main Hall inside Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International

The ATL airport employs over 60,000 people to accommodate the 300,000 daily passengers.

©ESB Professional/Shutterstock.com

The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is often cited as the world’s busiest airport. During Thanksgiving, it’s no different at ATL as the airport consistently sees a surge of passengers who are traveling for the holiday. The airport’s extensive flight network and location make it a prime place for connecting flights, emphasizing its importance in the Thanksgiving travel scene. It’s no wonder that Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport comes in at number one, especially as the Transportation Security Administration forecasts this to be the busiest travel season. 

Traveling During Thanksgiving

Traveling during the Thanksgiving season is a feat. These airports, in particular, see the most action in the United States, playing a crucial part in uniting passengers with their loved ones. The 10 airports on this list represent the most insanely busy airports during Thanksgiving, which help connect people to their friends and families.

Summary of the 10 Most Insanely Busy Airports During Thanksgiving

RankAirportLocationPassengers Annually (as of 2022)Percent Change
1Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)Atlanta, GA93,699,63023.8% increase
2Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)Los Angeles, CA65,924,29837.3% increase
3Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)Chicago, IL68,340,61926.5% increase
4Denver International Airport (DEN)Denver, CO69,286,46117.8% increase
5Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)Dallas, TX73,362,94617.5% increase
6John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)New York, NY55,287,69379.6% increase
7San Francisco International Airport (SFO)San Francisco, CA
73.% increase
8Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)Seattle, WA45,964,32127.1% increase
9Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)Charlotte, NC47,758,60510.3% increase
10Harry Reid International Airport (LAS)Las Vegas, NV52,694,31232.6% increase

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About the Author

Marisa Higgins is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on travel, places to visit, and fun activities. Marisa holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and French, a Master of Arts in English, and a Ph.D. in English, and she's spent the past decade teaching, writing, and researching. She lives in Knoxville, TN with her husband, and their Beagle-Chihuahua, Rumi, and cat, Rory.

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