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As the winter season winds down, many travelers in the U.S. are dreaming of getting away to their next destination. With spring and summer approaching and the economy remaining resilient, the next few months should be a busy time for travelers and the nearly $1 trillion travel and tourism industry.

Data from the U.S. Travelers Association suggests that 92% of travelers have travel plans within the first six months of 2024. While summer and the holiday season tend to be the most common windows for travel, this time of year is also popular as students and their families plan travel around schools’ spring breaks. Last year, more than 2.6 million people were forecasted to travel by airline each day in March and April.

While consumers have been eager to travel—and appear poised to continue this trend—doing so has not always been smooth in the last few years. The ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have continued to impact the sector, especially air travel. As anyone who has booked a flight since 2020 can attest, cancellations, delays, and other issues have become frustratingly common.

Trends in Domestic Flight Delays

After rising steadily since 2020, airport delays improved in recent months

Domestic Flight Delays

Source: Captain Experiences analysis of Bureau of Transportation Statistics data | Image Credit: Captain Experiences

The length and frequency of flight delays fell dramatically during the early months of the pandemic, as travel restrictions and reduced demand lessened pressure on airlines. But with fewer people traveling, carriers sought to cut costs and laid off pilots and ground staff in large numbers. When demand for travel rebounded, these layoffs left the airlines understaffed, and a surge in delays followed. By mid-2023, more than a quarter of flights had a delay, with delays averaging 79 minutes. Fortunately, however, conditions have improved. From the July 2023 peak to November 2023, the share of flights with delays fell by more than half from 27.7% to 13.6%.


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Contributions to Flight Delays

Airline issues and late arriving aircraft remain the leading contributors to flight delays

Flight Delays Contributions Chart

Source: Captain Experiences analysis of Bureau of Transportation Statistics data | Image Credit: Captain Experiences

Since the pandemic, flight delays classified as carrier delays have contributed to a higher proportion of delays, frequently exceeding late aircraft delays which have historically been more common. Under the FAA’s definitions, carrier delays are those considered within the control of an airline, such as crew availability, fueling and servicing, or issues due to oversales. Such delays spiked to more than 50% of flight delays for parts of 2020, and as of November 2023, carrier delays still represented more than two in every five delays.

Spring Break Flight Delays by Day of the Week

Flight delays during spring break peak around the weekends

Spring Break Flight Delays By Week - Chart

Source: Captain Experiences analysis of Bureau of Transportation Statistics data | Image Credit: Captain Experiences


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Travelers looking ahead to spring break in 2024 may be able to improve their odds of avoiding a delay if they time their flights correctly. During spring break, flight delays are much more common on weekend travel dates. Around one in four departing and arriving flights are delayed on Saturdays and Sundays, but less than 20% are delayed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Saturdays also tend to have the longest delays at an average of 75 minutes for both departures and arrivals.

To avoid delays, travelers may also want to consider where they plan to travel. Some popular spring break destinations—including Florida locations like Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Orlando (MCO), and Miami (MIA)—are among the airports with the highest share of departure delays this time of year. And some of the nation’s busiest airports, including Las Vegas’ Harry Reid International (LAS), Denver International (DEN), Newark Liberty International (EWR), and New York City’s John F. Kennedy International (JFK), also rank highly for delays, which could create issues for travelers connecting through these hubs.

Below is a complete breakdown of the airports with the worst delays over spring break. The analysis was conducted by researchers at Captain Experiences using data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. For more information on how each statistic was computed, refer to the methodology section below.

Large Hub Airports With the Worst Delays Over Spring Break

Large Hub Airports


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Medium Hub Airports With the Worst Delays Over Spring Break

Medium Hub Airports

Small Hub Airports With the Worst Delays Over Spring Break

Small Hub Airports

Nonhub Airports With the Worst Delays Over Spring Break

Nonhub Airports Table


To find the U.S. airports with the worst delays over spring break, researchers at Captain Experiences analyzed the latest data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ Marketing Carrier On-Time Performance data. The researchers ranked airports according to the share of departing flights that were delayed 15 minutes or more during spring breaks in 2022 and 2023. For the purposes of this analysis, spring break was defined as March and April to fully encompass common school schedules and religious holidays. Additionally, the researchers calculated the average delay for flights that experienced delays (for both departing and arriving flights), the most and least delayed airlines, and the most common cause of delay. The analysis used data from marketing carrier networks, which include mainline carriers and branded code share partners, as well as operating carriers that have at least 0.5% of the total domestic scheduled-service passenger revenue.