With millions of Americans traveling over for the holidays, it is no surprise that the days leading up to and after the holidays are among the busiest of the year for airports. If you have to fly you have to fly but if you can avoid these airports during holiday travel, all the better.
The Busiest U.S. Airports
- Denver International Airport (23% TAA)
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (22% TAA)
- Newark Liberty International Airport (21% TAA)
- Los Angeles International Airport (19% TAA)
- San Francisco International Airport (18% TAA)
Travelocity has examined its own data to determine the five major US airports that experienced the most traffic during last year’s holiday travel periods compared to an equivalent average period over all of 2015.
By looking at this measurement of Traffic Above Average (TAA), travelers can see at which airports they may encounter the longest security lines, most crowded concession areas and the fewest available parking spaces.
While not all travelers have the option of considering a different nearby airport, many of these busiest airports do have at least one potential alternative.
- Newark: New York Kennedy, New York LaGuardia
- Los Angeles: Orange County, Burbank, Long Beach
- San Francisco: Oakland, San Jose
Tips from the Experts
* Try to avoid booking on the busiest days – usually the Wednesday before and the Sunday after Thanksgiving, for instance. Think about flying on the holiday morning to avoid the crowds.
* If you have kids – think about booking a late flight so that they are more likely to sleep on the plane.
* Before getting to the airport, check in for your flight and pay for your checked bags online (you can do it 24 hours in advance) and be sure that you check your flight status before you leave home.
* When heading to the airport, try using public transportation. You won’t have to hunt down a parking space or pay for parking, and it tends to be far cheaper than a taxi. But if you do need to drive, call or go online to reserve a spot far ahead of time.
* To clear security as quickly as possible, be prepared before you get to the x-ray belt with your laptop out, shoes off and pockets emptied. And forget the jewelry until after you are through security and in the terminal.
* Remember to pack an empty (or collapsible) water bottle and ask a food vendor to fill it, or take advantage of new bottle filling stations popping up at many airports.
* If your itinerary includes a long layover, stake out a cozy spot to call “home”, or if you feel adventurous, get out of the airport and see some sights before your next flight. Just watch the time!
* Before you get to your destination, do some research online prior to departing not only to see if rideshare services are available at your destination, but most importantly if they are permitted to pick up at the airport in that city.
Best and Worst U.S. Airports
The Points Guy, known more for helping followers maximize their travel through points and deals, does a lot of traveling himself and has a few insightful observations of his own to offer travelers over the best and worst airports to know about no matter what time of year you happen to be traveling.
According to founder Brian Kelly, Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, AZ is the best U.S. airport and New York’s LaGuardia Airport is the worst. The site gets 3.4 million monthly unique visitors and is a leading resource for travel news.
The study examined the 30 busiest U.S. airports and used data from the Federal Aviation Administration, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, J.D. Power, Google Maps, iFly.com and the airports’ official websites. Categories included flight delays, cancellations, average security wait times, distance from the city center, public transit options, bars/restaurants, lounges, WiFi costs and parking rates.
Top importance was given to how well each airport serves its primary purpose – getting passengers to where they are going on time.
Next, it looked at how easy it is to reach the airport by car or public transportation. The third category focused on amenities, such as restaurants and lounges, as well as fees for parking and WiFi.
Best U.S. Airports
- Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
- Portland (Oregon) International Airport
- San Diego International Airport
- Salt Lake City International Airport
- Honolulu International Airport
Sky Harbor is a consistently strong performer: It has the shortest driving time from the city center, the 2nd-shortest public transit time, the 3rd-cheapest parking, the 3rd-most bars/restaurants per capita and the 5th-fewest flight cancellations. Its only below-average ranking is for lounges per capita (19th).
Worst U.S. Airports
- Detroit Metropolitan Airport
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport
- Newark Liberty International Airport
- John F. Kennedy International Airport
- LaGuardia Airport
LaGuardia has the most flight delays and cancellations and the most expensive parking among the 30 surveyed airports. JFK has the longest average security wait time and the longest driving time from the city center. Newark has the 2nd-most flight delays and cancellations, plus the 3rd-longest average security wait time.