Get The Vacationer Newsletter

Get highlights of the most important news delivered to your email inbox

    Get The Vacationer Newsletter

    Get highlights of the most important news delivered to your email inbox

      Advertiser Disclosure

      If you make a purchase or sign up for a credit card after clicking a link on this site, The Vacationer may receive compensation as it is part of an affiliate sales network that receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites. This compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The Vacationer does not review or include all possible offers, credit cards or credit card companies. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit to learn more.

      Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: Jones-Dengler Marketing, LLC via The Vacationer is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of, Inc. or its affiliates.

      How to Avoid Airline Flight Delays & Cancellations (March 2023)

      Phil Dengler
      How to Avoid Airline Flight Delays & Cancellations

      It feels like there is another airline meltdown every week. Between cancellations and significant delays, United States air travelers have recently dealt with unprecedented flight disruptions. And while you cannot guarantee a smooth and on-time flight, there are things you can do to better your odds. We briefly hit on this in our What To Do if Your Airline Cancels or Delays Your Flight guide, but this article will take a deeper dive. Here are our tips for avoiding flight delays and cancellations.

      Select the Earliest Flight Possible

      Most people do not like taking 8 a.m. flights or earlier; That is good news for you. Not only are very early morning flights cheaper, but they are also less likely to experience a cancellation or significant delay.

      Cancellations and delays often amplify throughout the day. That means an early morning delay is often shorter than one later in the day. Additionally, your odds of securing another same-day flight from a morning cancellation are higher than if your late afternoon or evening flight was canceled.

      Opt for flights taking off before 8 a.m. If that is too early, shoot for something before noon. But remember, the earlier the better.

      We recommend using Google Flights to quick find early departure times for a variety of different airlines.

      Further Reading: How to Find Cheap Flights, Best Days of the Week to Book Flights, & Best & Worst Times of Day to Fly.

      Select Nonstop Flights Over Those With Connections

      Assuming the price difference is reasonable, always book nonstop flights over ones with layovers. Unfortunately, having a layover opens the door to multiple problems.

      • Your First Flight is Delayed or Canceled
      • Your Second Flight is Delayed or Canceled
      • One or Both of Your Flights are Changed

      The worst-case scenario is if your first leg is delayed or canceled. Even a small delay could mean missing your second leg if the layover is short. If your first flight is canceled, then you have to go through the process of finding two new flights. It is not as bad if your second leg is delayed or canceled, but it is still something to avoid.

      Another issue is your airline changing one or both of your flights. Usually, the airline will change it so you can still make your connection, but that is not always the case. American Airlines recently switched the first leg of my upcoming flight (I cannot always follow my own advice!), and the layover went from two hours to only 40 minutes. Unfortunately, that short of a layover leaves little time for any delay.

      And it can be much worse if your layover involves two different airlines. At least with the same airline, it will be aware of your itinerary. If another airline is involved, you may be out of luck if one of your legs is changed. If your itinerary is with one airline, your second flight will most likely be in the same terminal that you landed in. With two different airlines, it could be a different terminal that takes a long time to get to.

      If You Can’t Avoid a Layover, Ensure it is at Least 90 Minutes

      Layovers are no fun, but they are important. Unfortunately, we are at the point where I recommend opting for a longer one. At the minimum, only book flights with layovers of at least 90 minutes. If possible, shoot for two hours to two and a half hours. That betters your odds of catching the second leg if your first leg is delayed. But the rule still stands — Only Book Nonstop Flights if Possible.

      The Vacationer Tip

      See if your credit card offer free lounge access to make long layovers more bearable.

      Consider the Typical Weather at Both Airports

      Considering flying from Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport to Chicago O’Hare International Airport in the middle of February? Do not be surprised if bad weather delays or cancels your flight. Account for the average weather at both your departing and arriving airport before booking during the month of your flight.

      It is always a guessing game, but consider things like snow and extreme heat. I had a flight significantly delayed out of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport a few summers ago because of high temperatures.

      If you do risk it, monitor the weather as your travel day approaches. If it looks bad, check your options for changing your flight to another day. Most airlines no longer have change fees (except on basic economy fares).

      Fly During Less Busy Times of the Year

      The more people flying, the greater the odds of things going wrong. I recommend flying during times when most people are not. That includes peak summer months and around the holidays. Airlines always struggle with cancellations and delays during busy times.

      For the holidays, consider driving or flying earlier or later than the usual times. For the summer, consider driving or flying during the shoulder season. That includes late May through the middle of June and late August through the Middle of September. During that time, fewer people are flying but it is still warm enough in most United States cities to enjoy summer activities.

      Make Sure Your Airline Flies Your Route Often

      Avoiding Flight Delays & Cancellations

      Photo: Pixabay

      Check how often your airline flies your route. It can range from multiple times per day to once a week; The more, the better. If your flight experiences a cancellation or delay, it will be easier to book an alternative flight to potentially shorten your delay.

      I once flew direct from LaGuardia Airport to Glacier Park International Airport. At the time, this route only flew once per week in the summer. While I could have booked a flight from my home airport in Philadelphia, I did not want a layover. Instead, I did take a risk by booking the direct flight from LaGuardia. If it had gotten canceled or significantly delayed, my options would have been limited.

      Fly From Hubs

      In addition to ensuring your airline flies your route multiple times per day, I also recommend flying from hubs. A hub is an airport where an airline flies to and from on a large scale. Generally, an airline is better equipped to handle delays and cancellations at one of its hub airports. For example, if you fly from Dallas/Fort Worth or Philadelphia, you have a pretty good chance of flying with American Airlines since they are both hub airports.

      Living near Philadelphia, I try to fly American Airlines since it has a hub there. I recommend checking which airlines have hubs at your nearest airport.

      Fly on Less Busy Days

      Typically, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best days of the week to fly. Fewer people fly on those days, which means better odds your flight departs and arrives on time. Additionally, those days are often cheaper than other days.

      Further Reading: The Best Days of the Week to Fly and The Best Days of the Week to Fly for the Holidays.

      Avoid Airlines That Struggle With Frequent Delays & Cancellations

      Some airlines struggle with delays and cancellations more than others. Here is recent data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics showing the airlines with the most delays and cancellations as of November 30, 2022.

      AirlinePercent Delayed (min. 15 minutes)Percent Canceled
      Allegiant Air33.38%2.63%
      Frontier Airlines30.76%2.34%
      Southwest Airlines24.36%1.54%
      Spirit Airlines23.12%2.72%
      Hawaiian Airlines22.89%0.39%
      American Airlines19.81%2.12%
      United Airlines17.33%1.86%
      Alaska Airlines17.23%1.25%
      Delta Air Lines15.38%1.60%
      Airlines are ordered by the highest percentage of delayed flights

      As the table shows, low-cost carriers like Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit struggle with delays and cancellations more than airlines like Delta, Alaska, and United. Allegiant, especially, because over one-third of its flights are delayed, with another 2.63% canceled. Out of the three major United States airlines, American Airlines is worse than both United Airlines and Delta Air Lines when it comes to delays and cancellations.

      Despite Southwest Airlines’ holiday season 2022 meltdown, it is actually on the lower end for cancellations. For delays, however, it has the fourth most from our sample.

      The Vacationer Tip

      Our What To Do if Your Airline Cancels or Delays Your Flight guide details what to do if your flight is canceled or delayed. This includes measures to take for quickly finding a new flight, refund options, compensation, and more.

      Avoid Airports With High Levels of Delays & Cancellations

      Some airports struggle with cancellations and delays more than others, so you should keep that in mind when planning your next flight. Here is data from FlightAware showing the airports with the most delays and cancellations from May 27, 2022, through September 5, 2022.

      AirportPercent Delayed
      Chicago Midway International Airport37.7%
      Baltimore/Washington International Airport32.5%
      Orlando International Airport32.2%
      John F. Kennedy International Airport31%
      Harry Reid International Airport31%
      Airports with the most delays (per FlightAware)

      Additionally, Newark Liberty International Airport, Dallas Love Field Airport,  Dallas Fort Worth International Airport,  Denver International Airport, and Charlotte Douglas International Airport all had delay percentages of at least 27%.

      AirportPercent Canceled
      Newark Liberty International Airport6.7%
      LaGuardia Airport6.7%
      Reagan National Airport4.8%
      Raleigh-Durham International Airport3.7%
      Cleveland Hopkins International Airport3.5%
      Airports with the most cancellations (per FlightAware)

      Additionally, Pittsburgh International Airport, Boston Logan International Airport, John Glenn Columbus International Airport, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, and Indianapolis International Airport all had cancellation percentages of at least 2.9%.

      What to Do if Your Flight is Delayed or Canceled?

      This article detailed how to avoid a flight delay or cancellation, but there are measures you can take if you experience a cancellation or significant delay. See the best ways to monitor for flight delays and cancellations as well as actions to take in the event of a flight delay or cancellation.

      What Causes Flight Delays and Cancellations?

      Most delays and cancellations are caused by these factors.

      • Poor Weather
      • Mechanical Issues
      • Staffing Issues
      • Very High Demand

      Poor weather actually accounts for a very small percentage of delays and cancellations. You should take it into account, but your airline, airport, and the time of year are more important for taking off on schedule.


      What are the best ways to avoid flight delays and cancellations?

      Here are our tips for avoiding flight delays in cancellations.

      1. Select the Earliest Flight Possible
      2. Select Nonstop Flights Over Those With Connections
      3. If You Can’t Avoid a Layover, Ensure it is at Least 90
      4. Consider the Typical Weather at Both Airports
      5. Fly During Less Busy Times of the Year
      6. Make Sure Your Airline Fl
      ies Your Route Often
      7. Fly From Hubs
      8. Fly on Less Busy Days
      9. Avoid Airlines That Struggle With Frequent Delays & Cancellations
      10. Avoid Airports With High Levels of Delays & Cancellations

      Unfortunately, these tips will only minimize your chances of experiencing a delay or cancellation. There is nothing you can to do 100% guarantee an on-time departure and arrival.

      When it comes to flight cancellations and delays, does it matter what time of day I fly?

      Yes, it does. Generally, it is better to fly early in the morning to lessen your chances of disruption.

      Does the length of my layover matter?

      It is extremely important. Always opt for a longer layover in case your first flight is delayed.

      Does it matter the time of year and what day of the week I fly when it comes to delays and cancellations?

      It does. Generally, holidays and other busy travel periods like the summer experience more flight delays and cancellations. Instead, fly during non-peak times of the year. Additionally, Tuesday and Wednesday flights are typically less likely to get canceled than on busy days like Monday and Friday.

      The Vacationer’s Final Thoughts

      When traveling, nothing is worse than starting or ending a trip with a flight cancellation or significant delay. While our tips are not foolproof, they are likely to improve your odds of experiencing on-time flights; I follow them every time I book a flight. The two most important things you can do are book an early morning flight with no layovers. As detailed in the article, early-morning flights experience significantly fewer cancellations than those later in the day. Additionally, nonstop flights have fewer legs, which means fewer things can go wrong.

      Phil Dengler The Vacationer Bio

      By Phil Dengler

      In addition to being a co-founder of The Vacationer, Phil Dengler is also the head of editorial and marketing. Previously, he ran a popular holiday deals website where he was a trusted source for all things Black Friday. With The Vacationer, Phil combines his knowledge of deals with his love of travel to help you plan the perfect vacation.