The Busiest Airports This Holiday Season - Hopper Research

The Busiest Airports This Holiday Season

Patrick
By Patrick Surry
Posted Oct 18, 2016

Summary

  • The Sunday after Thanksgiving is busiest travel day, followed by the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
  • Atlanta beats out several larger metro areas as the busiest airport for both holidays due to the large number of connecting passengers.


Long lines at the airport have been plaguing travelers all year long. We know the holiday season is one of the busiest times for travelers so our team decided to analyze what this year's Thanksgiving and Christmas air travel patterns will look like.

Thanksgiving


Figure 1: Busiest travel days during Thanksgiving week, based on scheduled passenger departures. The Sunday after Thanksgiving is busiest, followed by the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Rank

Airport

City

Total Passengers Departing During Thanksgiving Week

Busiest Time of Day (Local Time)

1

ATL

Atlanta

1,382,846

8:40 a.m.

2

LAX

Los Angeles

1,134,894

9:00 a.m.

3

ORD

Chicago

1,020,476

8:00 a.m.

4

DFW

Dallas

850,314

5:30 p.m.

5

JFK

New York City

837,078

5:30 p.m.

6

DEN

Denver

772,831

10:20 a.m.

7

SFO

San Francisco

745,123

9:40 a.m.

8

LAS

Las Vegas

636,132

12:00 p.m.

9

CLT

Charlotte

623,829

8:30 a.m.

10

PHX

Phoenix

613,433

8:50 a.m.

11

MIA

Miami

609,782

4:00 p.m.

12

SEA

Seattle

589,451

10:40 a.m.

13

MCO

Orlando

578,316

10:50 a.m.

14

EWR

Newark

569,967

4:20 p.m.

15

IAH

Houston

557,786

2:00 p.m.

16

BOS

Boston

498,827

6:00 a.m.

17

MSP

Minneapolis

466,675

6:30 p.m.

18

DTW

Detroit

464,338

6:50 p.m.

19

FLL

Fort Lauderdale

449,863

7:20 p.m.

20

LGA

New York City

417,180

8:30 a.m.

21

PHL

Philadelphia

392,102

4:50 p.m.

22

BWI

Baltimore

386,796

7:10 a.m.

23

DCA

Washington D.C.

321,346

4:10 p.m.

24

MDW

Chicago

319,357

7:20 a.m.

25

IAD

Washington D.C.

300,393

4:10 p.m.

Table 1: The busiest airports for Thanksgiving week, based on the volume of scheduled departures.


Atlanta beats out several larger metro areas due to the large number of connecting passengers. The busiest time of day is when we expect the longest lines at check-in and security.

The blue lines in the graphs below show the expected number of passengers navigating the airport at different times of day for each of the top 25 airports, assuming that passengers arrive an average of an hour before a domestic flight, and two hours before an international flight. The red mark indicates the busiest time of day. Some airports have a relatively flat distribution. For example, Atlanta is always busy, with morning a little busier than usual. Whereas others airports have strong daily cycles, For example, Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) is more than three times busier than usual around 4pm.


Figure 2: When to expect the busiest lines during Thanksgiving week

Christmas

Figure 3: The busiest travel days during the winter holidays week, based on scheduled passenger departures. Capacity is fairly flat, except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

Rank

Airport

City

Total Passengers Departing During Winter Holiday Period

Busiest Time of Day (Local Time)

1

ATL

Atlanta

1,986,695

8:40 a.m.

2

LAX

Los Angeles

1,809,847

9:00 a.m.

3

ORD

Chicago

1,495,117

8:00 a.m.

4

DFW

Dallas

1,348,236

5:40 p.m.

5

JFK

New York City

1,338,125

7:00 a.m.

6

DEN

Denver

1,215,534

9:10 a.m.

7

SFO

San Francisco

1,137,264

9:40 a.m.

8

PHX

Phoenix

1,010,513

9:40 a.m.

9

MIA

Miami

1,006,781

4:10 p.m.

10

CLT

Charlotte

980,921

7:00 p.m.

11

SEA

Seattle

932,643

10:30 a.m.

12

LAS

Las Vegas

910,520

12:00 p.m.

13

MCO

Orlando

907,879

10:50 a.m.

14

IAH

Houston

889,655

8:00 a.m.

15

EWR

Newark

865,143

7:00 a.m.

16

MSP

Minneapolis

748,179

6:30 p.m.

17

FLL

Fort Lauderdale

745,966

9:00 a.m.

18

BOS

Boston

734,828

6:00 a.m.

19

DTW

Detroit

684,497

6:50 p.m.

20

PHL

Philadelphia

646,736

4:50 p.m.

21

LGA

New York City

634,763

8:30 a.m.

22

BWI

Baltimore

574,674

7:20 a.m.

23

MDW

Chicago

482,977

7:00 a.m.

24

SLC

Salt Lake City

478,400

10:00 a.m.

25

DCA

Washington D.C.

475,656

7:30 a.m.

Table 2: The busiest airports for the winter holiday period, based on the volume of scheduled departures.


Atlanta beats out several larger metro areas due to the large number of connecting passengers. The busiest time of day is when we expect the longest lines at check-in and security.

The blue lines in the graphs below shows the expected number of passengers navigating the airport at different times of day for each of the top 25 airports, assuming that passengers arrive an average of an hour before a domestic flight, and two hours before an international flight. The red mark indicates the busiest time of day. Some airports have a relatively flat distribution like Atlanta which is always busy, with morning a little busier than usual. Whereas others airports have strong daily cycles such as Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) which varies much more throughout the day.

Figure 4: When to expect the busiest lines over the holidays.