By: Jordi Lippe-McGraw
Summer is here and pretty much everyone is looking forward to the Fourth of July, which, falling on a Tuesday this year, means an extra-extended holiday for some. A record-breaking 44.2 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home this Independence Day, according to AAA — that’s 1.25 million more travelers than last year.
And since this year is expected to mark the most traveled July 4th holiday weekend ever, the folks over at RewardExpert wanted to make the chaotic holiday a little less stressful. The website, which helps travelers redeem flights using miles and points, released its 2017 Independence Day Air Travel Forecast, revealing how travelers can avoid potential delays on those days.
To determine these tips, they analyzed Department of Transportation flight data from the past five years, noting where the most delays were reported and which airlines were responsible. The site took into consideration the top 10 domestic airlines at the 45 busiest airports in the U.S. over the Independence Day travel period in addition to the best and worst days to travel during the five days before and after the holiday.
“Travelers who choose to fly instead of drive over the Independence Day travel period are looking to travel somewhere far or get to their destination quickly,” RewardExpert CEO and co-founder Roman Shteyn said in a statement. “If timing is important to you, be mindful of the carrier you’re flying with and the dates you choose to travel.”
Here are their top tips.
1. Travel on July 4th.
If you have some flexibility around your travel days, it’s best to actually fly out on the morning of July Fourth because data shows there are fewer delays, cancellations or disruptions on the actual holiday. About 15 percent fewer flights go out on Independence Day compared to the day before, so you won’t have to deal with long lines either. And if you’re open to a quick trip, the research shows flying home on July 6 or 7 are the best days to avoid delays on the way back.
2. Don’t travel the Friday or Saturday before.
While the research showed which days to fly, it also revealed which ones to avoid. Friday and Saturday before the holiday tend to have the most delays and cancellations, and the same is true for the following Saturday when returning home. So while you may want a longer vacation, you might want to avoid the hassles that come with it.
3. Go to Hawaii.
Hawaii is paradise year-round, but it’s especially great over Independence Day because Hawaiian Airlines has an on-time arrival rate of 94.7 percent, and Honolulu International Airport in general has 88.5 percent of flights arriving without delay.
4. Fly Delta.
When it comes to which airline to fly over the holiday, Delta is the best major carrier. About 82 percent of the airline’s flights arrive on time, compared to United Airlines, which only has a 73.7 percent on-time rate. Some smaller carriers — like Hawaiian and Alaska airlines, which ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, overall — are also good bets.
5. Avoid certain airports if possible.
Many airports will be congested during the July Fourth travel period, but some will be worse than others. According to the research, Dulles Airport in northern Virginia is the worst to fly through with only 71.2 percent of flights arriving and departing on time. In addition, New York City’s three major airports (JFK, LaGuardia and Newark) ranked in the bottom 10 in terms of on-time performance, while San Francisco was the third worst. On the other hand, Salt Lake City holds the second-best record, just behind Honolulu.