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Flying can be stressful, even if you’re used to it. The process of moving through an airport requires a lot of steps, and it doesn’t always go smoothly. For many reasons, flights can be delayed (or even canceled). If you want to avoid getting caught up in this, read through our guide to the airports with the least delays.
You can’t outrun all airport delays. They’re inevitable sometimes, and most of us will be involved in a flight delay sometime in our lives. I know what it’s like to be sitting around waiting for a plane to take off – on my worst experience flying, the plane was 4 hours delayed, which had a knock-on effect on my next flight. A nightmare!
If you’re looking for the airports with the least delays, I can point you in the direction of the top 5 in the country. We’ll look at why airport delays happen, as well as how to avoid delays (if possible). Then, I’ll talk you through each of the airports on this list, including my thoughts on their pros and cons.
The Bottom Line Up Front
If you want to know which airport has the least delays, here you go: it’s Daniel K.Inouye International Airport. With a cancelation rate of just 11.69%, it’s reliable, clean, well-organized, and staffed by friendly and helpful people. Just a great airport in general, and one that I have enjoyed spending time in.
There are some great airports on this list apart from this one, with some similarly low rates of delays or cancelations. Keep reading to find out more!
My Top Picks
Here are my top 5 picks for airports with the least delays:
- Daniel K.Inouye International Airport– delay/cancelation rate of 11.69%. Clean, bright, and well-organized.
- Minneapolis St.Paul International Airport – delay/cancelation rate of 12.73%. Clean, plenty of facilities, and quiet seating areas are available.
- Detroit Metropolitan Airport – delay/cancelation rate of 13%. Clean and efficient with wide, well-lit walkways.
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport – delay/cancelation rate of 12.68%. Runs very smoothly with helpful staff.
- Salt Lake City International Airport – delay/cancelation rate of 12.78%. Recently renovated, it’s modern with plenty to do.
What Causes Airport Delays?
Flight delays are incredibly inconvenient and sometimes unavoidable. What causes them, and is it possible to avoid them?
Most flights are delayed because of the following reasons:
This is an obvious one. There are excellent reasons why planes can’t take off or land during storms, and flight delays in extreme weather are almost inevitable. Better safe than sorry, but still frustrating. For example, if you’re traveling in an area prone to snowstorms, you need to be prepared for last-minute delays or cancellations.
Surprisingly, bad weather is one of the rarer reasons why flights are delayed. According to the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics, it only accounts for 5% of flight delays.
All it takes is for one plane to be late, and it has a knock-on effect for the rest of the flights for the whole day. Sometimes, if an airport is having a particularly busy day, a plane can’t land at the scheduled time, as they need to wait for space on the runway. This can cause massive delays even if your flight isn’t involved.
Waiting for Passengers
If a passenger is late, this can again cause delays. Even if everyone arrives on time for your flight, if a passenger on a previous flight was late, it can cause that knock-on effect that is so annoying for both passengers and airline staff.
For obvious reasons, there are many safety checks in place before a flight is allowed to take off. These can take some time, especially if something goes wrong (no matter how small). Any faults will cause an inevitable delay.
Occasionally, delays are caused by staff strikes or if a staff member is late. This can happen if a staff member is going straight from one flight to another, as they can get caught up in the knock-on effect I mentioned earlier.
Baggage loading can take some time. If a staff member is late or calls in sick, that can cause delays in loading the bags onto the plane, which can cause your flight to be late.
Air Traffic Control (ATC) tracks all flights, and sometimes, the traffic gets heavy. So if you choose a particularly busy airport (like Heathrow in London), the chances are that you’ll encounter a delay, because the staff has to ensure a safe gap for new flights to land.
Can You Avoid Delays?
Sometimes, you can’t avoid delays. Some events (weather or strikes, to name a couple) are totally out of your control. However, you can try to avoid some of the more expected delays by doing the following:
- Fly to quieter airports. Airports with flights taking off every ten seconds are way more likely to experience delays, as sometimes flights can’t land on the runway. Quiet airports don’t have that problem. The downside is they may be a little further out, so you’ll have to arrange transport on the other side.
- Choose your destination wisely. Timing is key here. If you’re flying to a cold state in blizzard season, you’re way more likely to experience delays. Sometimes this is inevitable, but it may be a factor if you’re trying to choose a vacation destination.
- Go for highly rated airports. The more staff, the better! You’ll want to choose an airport with plenty of staff to allow processes like boarding and baggage loading to go as smoothly as they can do, which can decrease delays for passengers.
5 Airports With the Least Delays
Here are some airports that I think have the least delays. I’ve chosen them based on personal experience, customer satisfaction, and the percentage of delays reported over time (using a study by The Family Vacation Guide). Obviously, which one you go for will depend on where you want to go, but it may be worth traveling further once you land to avoid any potential delays.
1. Daniel K.Inouye International Airport, Hawaii
Daniel K.Inouye International Airport has to be mentioned first because of this statistic: it is one of the airports with the least delayed or canceled flights in the US. Their percentage, as of October 2021, was 11.69% which is amazing. This means the majority of their flights run on time.
I also like this airport because it has great facilities. It has good options for food and drinks, it’s clean, and there are a few small stores to pick up some essentials. Plus the staff members are helpful and friendly, which is another bonus. The security process is very smooth, and boarding is pretty fast.
The downside is that it’s not as modern as other airports. It can feel busy at peak times, too, so it’s sometimes a little chaotic if you’re arriving at the airport with a ton of other passengers.
- Airport with the least delays in the whole of the US
- Good facilities for food and drink
- Security and boarding go pretty smoothly
- Clean and well-organized
- Not as modern as other airports
- It can get pretty busy at peak times
2. Minneapolis St.Paul International Airport, Minnesota
Minneapolis St.Paul International Airport serves Delta Airlines, and it’s pretty busy, but it has a 12.73% rate of delayed or canceled flights, which for a busy airport, is not bad at all. That means that most of the flights run on time, which is reassuring.
I like this airport because it’s so clean! Everywhere, down to the bathrooms, is shiny and clean, and a lot of passengers consider it to be one of the cleanest airports ever. It’s bright and pleasant to be in, and there’s a quiet seating area, which is great if you want to avoid the crowds and sit in silence for a while. The amenities are good, with decent food and drink selections and nursing rooms, which is excellent if you’re flying with a baby.
The downside is that the signage outside could be clearer. Also, the pickup/drop-off area is a little confusing, especially when it gets busy (which it often does).
- Very clean and modern
- Quiet seating areas
- Nursing rooms
- Good food and drink options
- The pickup/drop-off area can be confusing
3. Detroit Metropolitan Airport
Detroit Metropolitan Airport has a delayed or canceled flight rate of 13%, which means that 87% of their flights run on time. That’s pretty good for such a busy airport, with over 1,000 flights going in or out daily. There are many destinations to choose from, too, with flights going to 12 countries.
The airport itself is nice to be in. They’ve nailed it in terms of creating an efficient airport with wide, well-lit walkways and a layout that makes sense. It’s large, so it may take some time to traverse, but it’s easy to navigate. It’s clean and modern, there are a lot of shops and food options to choose from, and the staff makes the whole journey through security and onto the plane as smooth as possible.
There are a couple of downsides. I’d like to see some more healthy/vegetarian/vegan options to eat, and the Wi-Fi can be a bit patchy. This is a problem if you plan to hang around the airport for a while.
- Very clean
- Efficient layout
- Wide, well-lit walkways
- Staff are friendly and helpful
- Could have more vegetarian/vegan options
- Wi-Fi can be patchy
4. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Georgia
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the busiest airport in the US, with over 1000 flights leaving or arriving at the airport each day. Despite this, it has a low percentage of delayed or canceled flights, with 12.68%. That’s pretty good, and you can rest in the knowledge that your flight will probably run on time.
I like this airport. It’s familiar to many people who fly in or to the US. It has many places to eat and drink and some stores to kill some time while you wait for your flight. It’s clean, efficient, and easy to navigate. The security process goes fairly smoothly, and the staff is helpful and friendly.
The downside is that it’s large, so it takes some time to get from one side of the airport to the other. It can feel crowded at peak times, too, which can feel a little stressful.
- Clean and easy to navigate
- Runs pretty smoothly
- Staff are helpful
- A lot of choices for food and drink
- The large airport takes some time to travel through
- Gets crowded at peak times
5. Salt Lake City International Airport
Salt Lake City International Airport has a low delay/canceled flight rate of just 12.78%. Given how busy this airport is, that’s a low number, and the chances are in your favor if you want to avoid flight delays.
There’s plenty to do here, with a lot of choices for food and drink, as well as several stores to wander around in if you have time. I like this airport because it’s fast. You’ll move smoothly through check-in and security, hopefully giving you time to chill out before boarding. The staff members are nice, which I like. Plus, it feels clean, modern, and bright. Everything you want from an airport. The art installations are interesting too.
There are some downsides, though. The main thing is that it is a huge airport. You’ll need some stamina to get from one side to the other! There is plenty of seating and restrooms at strategic intervals, but still.
- Super smooth process from check-in to boarding
- Clean and modern, especially since the recent renovation
- Good food and drink choices
- Stores to browse and art installations to look at
- Super large, so you’ll need a lot of time to move through it
Frequently Asked Questions
Before we wrap up, here are some frequently asked questions about flight delays:
Answer: Yep. According to the Bureau of Statistics, around 20% of flights were delayed in 2022. So if you fly often, chances are you’ll encounter a delay at least once in your life. That’s why I always recommend coming prepared with plenty to do and enough to drink to keep you hydrated if you get stuck in a line.
Answer: You can’t stop delays, but you can make the experience run smoothly for yourself. Some tips that have helped me include:
Understanding security rules, including around liquids, in advance. It helps to know exactly what is expected of you before you go. It reassures me to know I’ve done everything right on my end. Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the rules, and make sure you pack your items accordingly. Do you understand what to do with electricals? Are you familiar with your airline’s vape rules? Have you packed everything correctly in your luggage? It takes a few minutes to brush up on this information before you go.
Get ready in advance. Standing a long line gives you time to do everything you need, for example, getting your documents ready, preparing your boarding pass, or taking off any metal items to go through the detector.
Bring plenty to do. Make sure your phone is charged, your Airpods are ready, and you bring along a book in case you get stuck. Also, bring some water, or buy some on the other side of security, in case you get delayed for a while. This can help to avoid dehydration. The last thing you want is a bad headache on a long flight.
Familiarize yourself with the airport layout. Some airports have maps online or on their apps, so you can figure out where you’re going. It can take a while in larger airports to travel from one area to another, so it’s a good idea to have at least a vague idea of where you’re going.
Answer: That depends on who you’re flying with. Usually, decent airlines will offer something as a gesture of goodwill if you are delayed for a few hours or more. This typically involves a free meal or something similar.
Short delays are so common that airlines won’t usually offer compensation for those.
Answer: No, they don’t have to pay for travel accommodation. However, this is why it’s a good idea to have a backup plan if your flight gets canceled or postponed to another day.
To Sum Up…
I hope this has helped you find the airports with the lowest delay and cancellation rates! Sometimes it’s worth traveling more at the other end of your flight if you can avoid delays. Sitting around at the airport (or even worse, in the plane stuck on the runway) can be maddening, so I understand the urge to avoid this as much as possible.
Regarding stats, the Daniel K.Inouye International Airport has 11.69% of delayed or canceled flights, the lowest in the country. This is amazing, and the airport itself is great. However, I like Minneapolis St.Paul International Airport, partly because of the amenities and partly because it’s just so clean. It’s nice to spend time in an airport you can trust!
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