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The Best and Worst Airlines for Thanksgiving Travel

The Best and Worst Airlines for Thanksgiving Travel

Thanksgiving is a notoriously difficult time to travel, with millions of people heading home for the holidays and crowding airports and airlines. If you plan to join the legions this year, SmarterTravel has some thoughts on the best and worst airlines and airports as well as the best days to travel during the worst weekend to travel of the year and other tips to help your Turkey day go a little smoother:

Looking at information for the past several years based on on-time averages, here are the airlines that came out on top:


And because it’s not just airlines that make Thanksgiving travel difficult, but airports as well, here are the best airports in the nation:

  • Honolulu – 91.48% on-time
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta – 86.85% on-time
  • Charlotte – 86.58% on-time
  • Meyers Southwest Florida – 86.06% on-time
  • Salt Lake City – 85.42% on-time
  • Reagan National – 85.23% on-time
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor – 85.04% on-time
  • Tampa – 84.97% on-time
  • New Orleans – 84.80% on-time
  • Portland – 84.54% on-time


At the bottom of the spectrum are airports you’ll want to avoid:

  • San Francisco – 75.47% on-time
  • Newark Liberty – 78.73% on-time
  • Oakland – 78.78% on-time
  • Houston Hobby – 79.58% on-time
  • Sacramento – 79.70% on-time


As for travel days, if you can swing it, the best travel day is on Thanksgiving itself, which is November 23 this year. The worst days of Thanksgiving travel are Tuesday, November 28, Sunday, November 19, and Monday, November 27.

To combat some of the stress of travel, try to avoid traveling on the worst days if it’s possible. Otherwise try doing small things to alleviate some of the worst stress, like arriving at the airport in plenty of time and avoiding checking bags.

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