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The worst days to fly in the US, ranked

By David Yanofsky

Today is not the busiest day to fly in America. I repeat, today is not the busiest day to fly in America.

It’s not even close.

The three busiest days to fly in the US are all in the summer. In 2013, they were July 18, 25, and 11, according to airport operations data from the FAA. Those were the three consecutive Thursdays following US Independence Day on July 4th (which was the 21st least-busiest day to fly).

Of the top 30 busiest days at US airports in 2013, only three were during winter.

The day before Thanksgiving, if you were wondering, ranks 27th.

The Friday before Christmas—Dec 20—was the busiest winter day in 2013, ranking 4th overall. This year the Friday before Christmas is Dec 19.

Rank Day Operations
1 July 18 39,753 flights
2 July 25 39,630
3 July 11 39,538
4 December 20 39,485
5 June 14 39,472
6 August 2 39,361
7 June 20 39,305
8 August 1 39,251
9 August 9 39,249
10 July 26 39,243
11 June 19 39,190
12 August 15 39,163
13 July 31 39,140
14 July 24 39,118
15 July 12 39,080
16 December 19 39,054
17 August 8 38,973
18 July 19 38,902
19 August 7 38,855
20 August 16 38,798
21 June 27 38,775
22 June 21 38,763
23 July 16 38,730
24 July 17 38,715
25 July 30 38,708
26 June 6 38,695
27 November 27 38,676
28 August 6 38,654
29 July 3 38,554
30 May 24 38,405

The day before Thanksgiving is only marginally busy—not only in aggregate, but also at a local level. In 2013, there wasn’t one airport in the US that had its busiest day on Nov 27. Here’s a map of that:

With snow expected on the east coast this year, there are worries of weather related delays and cancellations that could pack more passengers onto fewer planes today. But that has not been the norm either. Flights in November are the least delayed by weather of any month on average.