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Flying Southwest, Delta or United for the Holidays? Expect Delays

U.S. airlines had a tough holiday weekend, with a Sunday storm causing massive delays, but ultimately the big four got you to where you were going.
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The only thing better than Thanksgiving is going back home after digesting too much food and spending too much time with family members that you don't really like. 

If you are traveling on Monday, there are relatively few issues, with nearly 1,400 delays and only 56 cancellations about halfway through the day. 

But if you left Sunday and your flight home was delayed, don't fret, because you weren't the only one. 

There were nearly 7,000 flight delays into or out of the U.S. on Sunday. Despite the multitude of delays, there were relatively few cancelled flights, with 179 being cancelled.

Budget airline Frontier was the U.S. carrier that had the most delays, with 41% of its 216 flights not leaving on time. Fellow budgeter Spirit also had a high percentage with 33% of its 276 facing delays. 

Frontier cancelled 12 flights on Sunday, according to FlightAware. Meanwhile fellow budgeter Spirit had a 33% cancellation rate, but only saw three of its 275 flights cancelled. 

  • American Airlines  (AAL) - Get Free Report had the most delays of the big four U.S. airlines, with 32% delays and 11 flight cancellations. 
  • Southwest  (LUV) - Get Free Report saw a 24% cancellation rate, but only one flight was cancelled. 
  • United Airlines  (UAL) - Get Free Report had a 19% cancellation rate, with 11 flight cancellations. 
  • Delta Airlines  (DAL) - Get Free Report had a 17% cancellation rate with only two flight cancellations. 
Busy airport Lead JS

What Caused the Delays?

A large storm system shifted from the Mississippi River Valley Sunday morning into the Northeast part of the country, bringing widespread rain and gusty winds with it, according to CNN

The storm featured heavy showers and high winds and reportedly impacted millions of travelers from the Midwest back to the East Coast. 

Busy Travel Day

Nearly 55 million people were expected to travel 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving travel period (the five-day period between Wednesday, Nov. 23 - Sunday, Nov. 27), according to AAA.

In a sign of society normalizing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that total represents a 1.5% increase over 2021 and 98% of pre-pandemic volumes.

In fact, 2022 will mark the third busiest Thanksgiving travel year since AAA starting tracking the stat in 2000.

Most travelers will be driving to their destinations this year, with nearly 49 million Americans hitting the road, a 0.4% increase from 2021.

But in what could be a function of high gas prices, car travel is expected to remain 2.5% below pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Meanwhile air travel is seeing a big bounce back this year with 4.5 million Americans flying to their Thanksgiving dinner destinations.

“Plan ahead and pack your patience, whether you’re driving or flying," Paula Twidale, AAA senior VP of travel said. 

Air travel during the Thanksgiving holiday this year was expected to increase by nearly 8% over 2021 levels. That's an extra 330,000 flyers this year, representing nearly 99% of 2019 volume. 

AAA's forecast tracks with a JD Power report stating that global airline passenger levels are nearly back up to 91% of pre-pandemic levels.