10 Worst Airports in the US for Delays

by Jem
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Ever wonder why some airports seem to be delay magnets? We’re diving into the top 10 most delayed airports in the US. Get ready for an insightful journey into the world of airport delays!

Ever wondered which airports in the US might have you glancing at your watch a bit too often? Well, you’re in for a treat (or maybe not, if you’re in a hurry)! We’re about to embark on a journey through the worst airports in the US in terms of delays. From the sunny coasts of Florida to the bustling terminals in California, we’ve got the scoop on where you’re most likely to face those pesky delays.

This isn’t just about groaning over wait times. It’s about understanding what makes these airports tick (or, well, not tick as quickly as we’d like). Let’s get ready to explore the most delayed airports in the US, backed by solid stats and a sprinkle of fun facts. You might want to grab a coffee for this one – especially if you’re reading this at one of these airports!

Worst Airports in the US for Delays right now

The Worst U.S. Airports for Delays (in 2024)

Navigating the skies in 2024, I’ve noticed a trend that’s hard to miss: airport delays. As a travel blogger constantly hopping from one airport to another, I’ve experienced these delays more times than I can count. It’s a reality that many travelers face, and it sparks a curious question: What’s behind these frequent delays?

In this article, we’re diving into the world of the most delayed airports in the US. It’s not just about pointing fingers or naming and shaming. Instead, we’re exploring the intricate web of reasons behind these delays. From weather patterns to operational complexities, we’re uncovering the layers that contribute to this widespread issue.

Each airport has its own story, its own set of challenges. By understanding these, we can better navigate our travels and maybe even find a silver lining in those extra hours spent at the terminal. So, let’s embark on this journey of discovery and see what lies behind the departure screens.

1. Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU)

In 2023, Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport took an unwelcome lead, with 33.9% of its flights delayed. This Puerto Rican hub, bustling with tourists and locals alike, faced a significant challenge in keeping flights on schedule.

The reasons for the delays include a complex blend of factors. Frequent tropical weather, from sudden storms to high winds, played a major role. These unpredictable weather patterns often led to flight disruptions, leaving passengers with unexpected extra time at the airport.

Weather wasn’t the only culprit, though. SJU also grappled with operational issues. Increased air traffic, especially during peak tourist seasons, pushed the airport’s capacity to its limits. This surge often resulted in logistical hurdles, from crowded runways to overburdened airport staff. The airport’s strategic location as a bridge between the US and the Caribbean further amplified these challenges.

Despite these delays, SJU didn’t lose its charm. The airport, steeped in the vibrant culture of Puerto Rico, offered stranded travelers a taste of local life. From authentic Puerto Rican cuisine to lively music, the airport turned waiting times into cultural experiences. So, while the delays were a downside, they also offered a unique opportunity to soak in the island’s spirit.

Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport is one of the worst in the US for delays.
Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport is one of the worst in the US for delays. | Image Credit: Discover Puerto Rico

2. Orlando International Airport (MCO)

Orlando International Airport, with a 30% delay rate in 2023, tells a unique story. Unlike SJU’s weather woes, MCO’s delays stem largely from its status as a family vacation hub. Imagine thousands of excited families, all eager to experience the magic of nearby theme parks. This influx, especially during school breaks, creates a tidal wave of travelers that the airport sometimes struggles to manage efficiently.

MCO’s layout and ongoing construction projects in 2023 also contributed to these delays. The airport was in the midst of expansion to accommodate its growing popularity, but this meant temporary logistical challenges. Think detours within the airport and changes in gate assignments, leading to a bit of chaos and, consequently, delays.

However, MCO’s delays come with a silver lining. The airport is a mini-attraction in itself, with a variety of shops and eateries that reflect Orlando’s charm and family-friendly vibe. It’s an airport where a delay might just mean extra time to pick up that last-minute souvenir or enjoy a relaxed meal.

The airport was expanding at the time to handle the rising demand.
The airport was expanding at the time to handle the rising demand. | Image Credit: Orlando Airports

3. Las Vegas Airport Harry Reid International Airport (LAS)

Harry Reid International Airport, one of the most delayed airports in the US, saw 29.7% of its flights running late in 2023. Unlike the predictable delays at tourist-heavy airports, LAS’s issues were more nuanced. This bustling airport, a gateway to America’s playground, faced unique challenges due to its rapid growth and the 24/7 nature of Las Vegas itself.

One key factor was the airport’s infrastructure struggling to keep up with the increasing number of flights and passengers. This strain was evident in crowded terminals and overtaxed runway capacities. Additionally, the airport’s proximity to Nellis Air Force Base occasionally led to airspace restrictions, further complicating flight schedules.

Whilst delays are frustrating, Harry Reid International Airport isn’t the worst airport in the US to be stuck at. The airport buzzes with the energy of the city, filled with slot machines and glimpses of the Strip’s neon lights. For many, a delay here offered an extension to explore the beauty of Vegas, complete with all the excitement and entertainment you’d expect in Sin City.

Although annoying, delays aren't the worst place to be stuck in the US at this airport.
Although annoying, delays aren’t the worst place to be stuck in the US at this airport. | Image Credit: Harry Reid Airport

4. Palm Beach International Airport (PBI)

Palm Beach International Airport, with a 29.6% delay rate in 2023, stands out for reasons beyond the usual suspects. PBI’s delays weren’t just about weather or overcrowding – they were also about its clientele.

As one of the slowest airports in the US, PBI caters to a high volume of private jets and luxury travel. This adds a layer of complexity to its operations. The mix of commercial and private flights often led to unique air traffic management challenges.

Another factor contributing to PBI’s delays was its ongoing modernization efforts. In 2023, the airport was undergoing significant upgrades to enhance passenger experience. While these improvements promise a more efficient future, they temporarily introduced operational hiccups.

However, PBI offered a serene waiting experience, reflective of Palm Beach’s upscale, laid-back vibe. The airport’s smaller size compared to other major Florida airports meant fewer crowds and a more relaxed atmosphere. With comfortable lounges and a selection of fine dining and shopping options, delays at PBI often felt more like a pause in a luxury resort than a typical airport wait.

Reflective of Palm Beach's elite, PBI provided a calm waiting environment.
Reflective of Palm Beach’s elite, PBI provided a calm waiting environment. | Image Credit: Palm Beach International Airport

5. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FLL)

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport found itself among the most delayed airports in America last year, with 29.5% of flights not keeping to schedule. FLL’s delays were primarily driven by its increasing popularity as a more relaxed alternative to Miami’s hustle. This rise in passenger traffic, coupled with limited runway space, often led to congestion both in the air and on the ground.

FLL’s role as a major hub for several low-cost carriers also contributed to the delays. These airlines often operate on tight schedules, and any minor disruption can quickly escalate into significant delays.

What sets FLL apart, however, is its commitment to sustainability and environmental initiatives. Amidst the delays, the airport was actively working on reducing its carbon footprint and implementing green practices. Witnessing these green initiatives firsthand, amidst the hustle of delayed flights, gave me a sense of hope and progress. It’s not every day you see an airport actively embracing environmental responsibility, especially in the midst of managing operational challenges.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport was one of the US airports with the most delays.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport was one of the US airports with the most delays. | Image Credit: Fort Lauderdale

6. Tampa International Airport (TPA)

Tampa International Airport, with a delay rate of 26.9% in 2023, presents an intriguing case. Known for its architectural elegance and efficiency, TPA’s delays were somewhat unexpected.

The primary reason? A significant increase in passenger traffic. Tampa’s growing popularity as a tourist and business destination brought more flights and, consequently, more potential for delays.

TPA’s geographical location also played a role. Situated on Florida’s Gulf Coast, the airport occasionally faced weather-related disruptions, especially during the hurricane season. While not as frequent as in other Florida airports, these weather events still contributed to the delay percentage.

What really caught my attention at TPA was its commitment to passenger experience. Despite the delays, the airport maintained a focus on customer service. With its spacious design, a plethora of dining and shopping options, and even some local art exhibits, TPA turned the inconvenience of waiting into a more pleasant experience. It’s an airport where a delay might just give you the chance to discover a hidden gem or two within its terminals.

TPA is renowned for its efficient and elegant architecture, so its delays came as a bit of a surprise.
TPA is renowned for its efficient and elegant architecture, so its delays came as a bit of a surprise.

7. Daniel K. Inouye International Airport Honolulu (HNL)

Wondering which airports are the worst in the US for delays? Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu takes the seventh spot, with 26.8% of flights not on time in 2023. This iconic airport, serving as the gateway to Hawaii’s paradise, faced unique challenges.

Being one of the most remote major airports in the world means any disruption in the supply chain or mechanical issues can lead to significant delays, as replacements and repairs take longer than usual.

Another aspect contributing to HNL’s delays was the fluctuating tourist seasons. Hawaii’s popularity as a year-round destination led to inconsistent passenger flow. This makes it hard to predict and manage peak times efficiently. Additionally, the airport’s layout, spread across several islands, sometimes caused logistical complexities in managing air traffic.

Whilst not getting to your destination on time isn’t ideal, HNL’s response to delays was noteworthy. The airport focused on efficient communication and passenger support during disruptions. Real-time updates via their app and helpful staff made navigating delays less stressful.

The varying tourist seasons were another factor that caused delays with HNL.
The varying tourist seasons were another factor that caused delays with HNL. | Image Credit: Hawaii

8. Jacksonville International Airport (JAX)

Jacksonville International Airport faced a 26.3% delay rate in 2023, placing it among the most delayed airports in the US. The primary causes of JAX’s delays were typical of busy airports: increased air traffic and the unpredictable weather patterns common in Florida. These factors, combined with occasional operational challenges, contributed to the higher percentage of delayed flights.

What sets JAX apart is its commitment to maintaining a calm and efficient environment during these delays. The airport’s layout and management strategies were focused on minimizing passenger stress. Efforts to keep travelers informed and comfortable during waits were evident, with clear signage and regular announcements.

Additionally, JAX’s smaller size compared to other major airports in the region meant less crowded spaces, allowing for a more relaxed waiting experience. The airport’s facilities, including seating areas and dining options, were designed to provide a comfortable environment for passengers caught in delay situations.

Since JAX is smaller than other large airports in the area, there are less people in its spaces.
Since JAX is smaller than other large airports in the area, there are less people in its spaces. | Image Credit: Fly Jacksonville

9. San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

One of the most delayed airports in the US in 2023 was San Francisco International Airport, experiencing a 25.6% delay rate. The primary factors contributing to these delays were the airport’s dense fog conditions and its busy air traffic. SFO, known for its challenging weather, often faces visibility issues that impact flight schedules.

Another factor was the airport’s high volume of both domestic and international flights. As a major hub on the West Coast, SFO handles a significant amount of air traffic. This leads to congestion both in the air and on the ground. This congestion is a common cause of delays, especially during peak travel seasons.

SFO’s efforts to manage these delays included implementing advanced air traffic control technologies and optimizing runway usage to improve efficiency. The airport also focused on enhancing passenger communication during delays, providing timely updates and information to minimize inconvenience.

With such unpredictable weather, SFO frequently experiences visibility problems that affect aircraft scheduling.
With such unpredictable weather, SFO frequently experiences visibility problems that affect aircraft scheduling. | Image Credit: Fly SFO

10. Ontario International Airport (ONT)

Concluding our list of the most delayed airports in 2023 is Ontario International Airport, with a delay rate of 25.6%. This airport in Southern California is notorious for its delays. Without a doubt, this rate places ONT among the worst airports in the US.

The primary reasons for delays at ONT were attributed to its significant cargo traffic and the rapid growth in passenger numbers. As a key freight hub, the mix of cargo and passenger operations often led to complex scheduling, contributing to delays.

ONT’s location in the Inland Empire also meant dealing with Southern California’s busy airspace, which can lead to air traffic congestion. Despite these challenges, the airport has been working on expanding and upgrading its facilities to better handle the increasing traffic and improve efficiency.

As the final airport on our list, Ontario International serves as a reminder of the diverse challenges airports face in maintaining timely operations. From weather to traffic growth, each airport on this list has its unique set of circumstances contributing to delays, reflecting the complex nature of air travel today.

This ranking unquestionably ranks ONT among the worst airports in the US.
This ranking unquestionably ranks ONT among the worst airports in the US. | Image Credit: Fly Ontario

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Most Delayed Airports in the U.S.

Are you still curious about which airport in the US is the most delayed? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help answer your queries.

Which US airport has the most delays?

In 2023, the US airport with the most delays was Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) in Puerto Rico. It had a significant delay rate of 33.9%. This high rate was influenced by a combination of factors, including its location in a tropical climate prone to unpredictable weather and its status as a major hub connecting the US and the Caribbean.

What is considered the worst airport in the United States?

My least favorite airport in the US is LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in New York. It’s known for its frequent delays, congestion, and until recently, outdated facilities. Historically, it’s had a reputation among travelers for being a challenging airport in terms of comfort and timeliness.

Travel through the US airports with the highest percentage of delays.
Travel through the US airports with the highest percentage of delays.

Weather-related delays are most common in airports located in areas prone to severe weather conditions. Airports like Chicago O’Hare International (ORD) and Denver International (DEN) often face significant weather-related delays due to snow and thunderstorms. Additionally, airports in Florida, like Orlando International (MCO) and Tampa International (TPA), frequently experience delays due to thunderstorms and hurricane season impacts.

What percent of US flights are delayed?

In terms of flight delays, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported that about 23 percent of all domestic flights were delayed in 2023. This figure gives us a clear picture of the frequency of delays in the US and underscores the various factors that can impact flight schedules, from weather to operational challenges at airports.

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