The dreaded airport and airline flight delays. Practically every traveler has experienced the unpleasantness. Sadly, being caught up in a flight delay is something beyond an air traveler’s control. Or is it? Can you actually do something that could minimize the risk of a flight delay, or perhaps avoid one altogether?
Would you be surprised to learn that yes, there are steps you can take to reduce the odds of being caught up in a flight delay the next time you travel? Because there are!
Sadly, we cannot control Mother Nature. Nor can we control mechanical breakdowns, flight congestions nor flight crew delays. But we can control other aspects of air travel that may work in our favor to reduce the odds of encountering flight delays. Read on my air traveling friend, and learn the very tips and air travel strategies I follow whenever I travel by air.
My Top Tips To Help Avoid Flight Delays
Wouldn’t it be nice if all you had to do was wave a magic wand, and poof! Just like that, your flight departs on time, no hassles, no issues, and that connecting flight is ready and waiting when you arrive at the gate. Waving a magic wand is not reality, but what is real are these flight booking tips you can apply now to reduce your odds of being stuck at the gate the next time you travel by air.
1. Book The Earliest Available Departure Time
The risk of flight delays increases as the day wears on. Think the “snowball effect.” All it takes is one round of delays due to an early morning thunderstorm to throw off the rest of the day. Another reason? If your flight is delayed or cancelled and you need to find a new flight, you will have more options for finding alternative flights if there are more hours left in the day.
My Travel Plan: I prefer that dreaded 6:00am flight. Yes, I have to get up early, and quite possibly have to deal with cranky kids, but that early wake up call is worth it to keep my travel plans on track.
2. Book Direct Flights Whenever Possible
Yes, I know. Often that flight connecting through another airport sells for a lower ticket price than a direct flight, and may look mighty tempting! That connecting flight may leave some extra cash in your wallet, but is it really worth the monetary savings? Opting for a direct flight to your destination can tremendously reduce the risk of flight delays since there are no connections to catch. In the end, that cash savings may come at the price of additional flight delays, missed connections, and the possibility of missed time at your destination.
My Travel Plan: I compare and contrast direct flights with alternative connecting flights for both price as well as connecting and total travel times. Sometimes that extra $100 for a direct flight is worth spending for the time savings alone!
3. Bypass Airports Notorious For Flight Delays
Sometimes connecting flights are a must. Perhaps that direct flight is exorbitantly more expensive, or you just can’t get there without a connecting flight. A little knowledge can go a long way to keeping your travels in the air, and knowing before you book which airport your flight connects through can make an impact upon your travel plans.
Know before you purchase your ticket which airports are the worst offenders for on-time departures. If you have the choice, book one with a better track record. Airports most notorious for flight delays, and ones I try to avoid connecting through, include:
- Chicago – Both Ohare (ORD) and Midway (MDW)
- New York – Both JFK and LaGuardia (LGA)
- Newark Liberty International (EWR)
- Washington Dulles International (IAD)
- Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)
- Houston George Bush International (IAH)
Travel Tip: Sometimes flying through an airport notorious for delays can’t be avoided. If you must fly through an airport known for delays, build in extra connection time, and be prepared with a back up plan in case a flight delay mucks up your travel plans.
My Travel Plan: All three of my home airport options are on the notorious for flight delays list. All the more reason I book flights early in the day, and for the less traveled days.
4. Choose Wisely Thy Connecting Airports
In addition to knowing which airports are more likely to experience flight delays, also know those airports which tend to have a better flight delay track record. If you must connect, consider routing your flights through one of these airports instead. Airports such as these can make for a less stressful, more timely, connection.
- Salt Lake International (SLC)
- Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
- Portland International (PDX)
- Minneapolis St. Paul (MSP)
- Charlotte Douglas (CLT)
- Miami International (MIA)
My Travel Plans: I will spend a few extra bucks to avoid connecting flights. And if I must connect? I seek out airports with better flight delay records.
5. Book Flights for Wednesday, Thursday or Saturday
Turns out that Wednesdays, especially in the mornings, as well as Thursdays and Saturdays are the least crowded days in most airports. Who knew, right? Saturdays also have fewer scheduled flights than any other days of the week. That directly translates to smaller crowds, easier airport navigation, and less flights to cause air traffic jams!
How I Travel: I knew there was a reason I preferred early morning flights on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It really is less crowded at the airport!
6. Avoid Flights on Sundays, Mondays and Fridays
Think business travelers heading out Monday mornings for those far away meetings. And Sundays? That’s the most popular day for vacationers to return home. Everyone wants to squeeze in just one more day on vacation, right? Then there are Fridays. Yikes! Seems like everyone is flying somewhere on Friday afternoons. Guess that explains why Fridays on average have more flights than any other day of the week!
How I Travel: I avoid Sunday flights whenever possible. I find Monday departures for home worth considering, especially if I am traveling from a vacation destination or the Monday after a major holiday weekend. Because, you know, everyone else headed home on Sunday!
Infographic – More Tips To Avoid Flight Delays
Arm yourself with these air travel tips and the next time you travel by air, you too can reduce the risk of flight delays. Though nothing is 100% effective, and nobody can stop Mother Nature’s effects, applying several of these tips the next time you book a flight might just help you arrive as scheduled!
Infographic via Visualistan. Find more infographics at Visualistan.
Do You Have A Flight Booking Strategy?
I’ve been following these flight booking strategies for years, and yes, they really can help reduce the risk of flight delays. Yes, I still experienced flight delays. Yes, I’ve nearly been left behind in Dallas/Fort Worth, had to find new flights in Miami, and scrambled across Denver International to catch a connecting flight. However, these simple flight booking strategies will help minimize these travel snafus. They really do work!
What do you think? Do you have a flight booking strategy to help reduce the risk of your air travel plans being delayed? Do you have other air travel booking tips to minimize the risk of getting caught in a flight delay? Do share!
Flight delay data resources include Fortune – These are the airports where your flight will be delayed or canceled (April 2015), and FiveThirtyEight – The Best and Worst Airlines, Airports and Flights (June 2015) and HuffingtonPost – The Worst Airports in America (December 2015)
Infographic by getairhelp, via Visualstan.