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Essential Air Travel Tips for the Holidays

Thursday Oct 25, 2018
Essential Air Travel Tips for the Holidays
  (Source:Getty Images)

If you are already planning your holiday travel, it will be music to your ears to hear that you could save a lot of money on airline tickets for the holiday season if you book them today, which is about nine weeks in advance, since the difference between the best and worst priced day to purchase an airline ticket is around $260.

While you may have missed the cheapest booking window for Thanksgiving, you can still plan to miss the biggest crowds at the airport for Thanksgiving and holiday travel. AirHelp looked into the most popular and most disrupted flight routes from last year to help inform travelers about what to expect this year. The travel team has studied seasonal flight data to reveal the most popular flight paths and the best time to travel.

Thanksgiving travel - the most popular days and places to fly

In 2017, the Sunday after Thanksgiving - November 26, 2017 - was the busiest day to fly for most airports. This data was taken from the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, November 21, 2017, until the Monday following the holiday. Within this date range, more than 153,000 flights departed from United States airports. The most popular flight routes over Thanksgiving included:

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) - San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) - Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
New York LaGuardia Airport (LGA) - Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD)
Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) - New York LaGuardia Airport (LGA)
Kahului Airport (OGG) - Honolulu International Airport (HNL)
Honolulu International Airport (HNL) - Kahului Airport (OGG)
New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) - Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) - New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) - Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS)
Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS) - Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

If you're planning to fly on these routes, flights departing between 6:00am and 11:59am experience the fewest disruptions. If you live near one or more large airports, you may want to consider looking at several different flight options, since these experienced the highest number of disruptions for Thanksgiving travel:

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) - San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) - Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) - San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
San Diego International Airport (SAN) - San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) - San Diego International Airport (SAN)
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) - Orlando International Airport (MCO)
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) - Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS)
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) - Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS) - San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) - New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

Holiday travel - the best and worst times to fly
Many U.S. travelers take vacation time during the holiday season, which means that many airports experience overcrowding and airline ticket prices increase. The busiest travel day for Christmas week, between Thursday, December 21, 2017 and Tuesday, January 2, 2018, varies across each of the largest U.S. airports, but based on last year's crowds, travelers may want to avoid taking off on these days when traveling for the winter holidays:

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL): December 29
Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD): December 22
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX): January 2
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW): January 2
Denver International Airport (DEN): December 22
Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT): December 27
Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH): December 29
San Francisco International Airport (SFO): December 22
New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK): December 21
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR): December 22

As travelers book tickets for the holiday season,they may want to note the most disrupted flight routes, or the flights that typically see the most delays. These tricky routes include:

New York LaGuardia Airport (LGA) - Toronto Lester B. Pearson International Airport (YYZ)
New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) - Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) - Toronto Lester B. Pearson International Airport (YYZ)
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) - Toronto Lester B. Pearson International Airport (YYZ)
Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) - New York LaGuardia Airport (LGA)
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) - Portland International Airport (PDX)
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) - Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Boston Edward L. Logan International Airport (BOS) - Orlando International Airport (MCO)
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) - San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
Boston Edward L. Logan International Airport (BOS) - Toronto Lester B. Pearson International Airport (YYZ)


How to handle travel disruptions
No matter when you fly, once you reach the airport, circumstances may arise that you did not anticipate or plan.

If you are denied boarding because too many passengers checked in for the flight, and you don't volunteer to deplane or take another flight, you can be eligible for compensation of up to $1,350, depending on the value of your ticket fare and ultimate delay in arrival to your final destination.

If flying within the US and you're put on a flight that arrives within 1 - 2 hours of your planned arrival, you can be compensated 200% of your one-way ticket fare up to $675.

If the delay is more than 2 hours for a domestic flight, you may claim up to $1,350. If you're traveling abroad, and the delay to your destination compared to your original flight is between 1 - 4 hours, you can get compensated 200% of your one-way fare up to $675. For delays more than 4 hours, you may be entitled to 400% of one-way fare up to $1,350.

Autumn 2018

This story is part of our special report titled "Autumn 2018." Want to read more? Here's the full list.


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