Labor Day Travel Outlook: Busiest Airports

Atlanta (ATL), Denver (DEN) and Los Angeles (LAX) airports will be the busiest over the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Hayley Berg - Aug. 23, 2022

Summary

  • More than 12.7 million passengers are expected to depart from US airports over the long weekend, with most travelers staying in the US (10.8 MM) and some (1.8 MM) taking advantage of open borders and relaxed covid-19 travel requirements to head out of the country. 

  • Airports will be packed with travelers throughout the weekend, with an average of 2.6 million passengers departing each day. Friday ahead of the long weekend will be the busiest travel day with closer to 2.7 million travelers departing. 

  • Atlanta (ATL), Denver (DEN) and Los Angeles (LAX) top the list for busiest airports over the extended holiday weekend. If you’re flying out of one of these airports this Labor Day, be sure to get to the airport early to allow for extra time getting through security.

  • With flight delay and cancelation rates well above 2019 averages, travelers should prepare for potential disruptions traveling over the long weekend. Sign up for alerts about your trip to ensure you're aware of any changes to your trip and consider purchasing a product like Hopper’s Flight Disruption Guarantee when you book. This product covers flight delays, cancellations & missed connections. If you experience a disruption, you can rebook immediately on ANY carrier & get out on the next flight for free, or receive a refund. 


12.7 million expected to fly over Labor Day weekend

As fall and back to school season closes in on Americans, millions of travelers are planning getaways over Labor Day weekend to take advantage of the last long weekend of summer. More than 12.7 million passengers are expected to depart from US airports between Thursday and Monday. About 1.8 million travelers are taking advantage of open borders and relaxed covid-19 travel requirements to head out of the country, but most travelers, ~10.8 million, are heading to domestic destinations. 

Airports will be packed later this week, with as many as 2.7 million travelers departing on Thursday and Friday ahead of the long weekend. Monday, September 5th will be the busiest day to return, with 2.6 million travelers expected to take to the skies. Plan for extra time getting through security and longer lines at the airport if you’re traveling on those days! 

Expected
Figure 1: Expected passenger volume departing from US airports over the Labor Day long weekend this year, in millions.

Flight Disruptions Remain High as Labor Day Approaches

With rising delay and cancellation rates globally, many passengers are concerned about disruption to their trips this long weekend. On average 23% of flights in August have been delayed from departing US airports, an increase of 28% compared to August of 2019.  Cancellation rates, ~3% of departing flights, have more than doubled compared to August 2019, though many of these cancellations have been proactive on the part of airlines in an effort to reduce overall disruption. 

High disruption rates have not deterred travelers, instead many Americans are adding flight disruption protection products to their flight bookings to protect them in the event of significant delays, missed connections or unexpected cancellations. Today, 1 in 5 Hopper bookers include Flight Disruption protection when they book a trip in an effort to mitigate any potential costs and frustration associated with unexpected disruption. Disruption is top of mind for Labor Day travelers, with these bookers 23% more likely to add Hopper’s Flight Disruption Guarantee product than all other travelers. 

Delay
Figure 2: Average percent of all scheduled flights delayed departing from US airports. Data from OAG.
Cancelation
Figure 3: Average percent of all scheduled flights canceled departing from US airports. Data from OAG.

ATL, DEN & LAX expecting more than half a million passengers

The busiest airports this Labor Day weekend will be Atlanta, Denver and Los Angeles airports, with more than half of a million travelers expected to depart over the weekend. Atlanta is expected to see close to three quarters of a million passengers departing over the long weekend. These airports are also seeing high flight disruption rates this August, with most experiencing higher than usual delay and cancelation rates. Travelers flying out of these airports should be prepared for potential disruptions on their trip. 

Labor-Day
Table 1: The 10 busiest US airports over Labor Day weekend, based on the volume of scheduled departing passengers. Delay and cancellation rates based on the average for August 1 through August 15th.

Best and Worst Airports 

These airports have the best and worst records for on time performance in the month of August so far. Travelers planning to fly out of the “worst” airports should expect potential delays and cancellations over the long weekend as crowds will be even higher through Monday. 

Labor
Table 2: The 10 worst US airports to fly from, based on the average delay and cancellation rates for flights departing in the first half of August, including only airports with more than 1,000 flights departing over Labor Day Weekend.
Labor
Table 2: The 10 best US airports to fly from, based on the average delay and cancellation rates for flights departing in the first half of August, including only airports with more than 1,000 flights departing over Labor Day Weekend.

How to prepare for disruption over Labor Day Weekend?

  1. Add trip protection: For ~$34 on average, Hopper allows travelers to add Flight Disruption Guarantee, which covers flight delays, cancellations & missed connections. If you experience a disruption, you can rebook immediately on ANY carrier and get out on the next flight for free, or receive a refund.

  2. If you haven’t booked yet, build in a buffer day: Particularly for holiday weekends, it’s always a good idea to add in an extra day or two to your travel plans, to ensure you can arrive at your destination on time (and with some wiggle room).

  3. Take the first flight out: Hopper recommends booking the earliest flight available, so you’re less likely to be impacted by delays from earlier in the day. With nearly half of recently delayed flights being for 1 hour plus, ensure you get to your destination faster by booking a direct flight, so you don’t run the risk of missing a connection. And no matter what time your flight is, arrive at the airport early!

  4. Sign up for alerts: You’ll want to know about delays and cancellations as early as possible. On most U.S. carriers, passengers can sign up for text, email, and/or in-app notifications about any changes to their itinerary including delay and cancellations. Travelers using the Hopper app are also notified as soon as we are aware of any disruptions. 

  5. Cancel or Change plans with flexibility: Travelers seeking extra flexibility should take advantage of Cancel for Any Reason or Change for Any Reason on the Hopper app. There is no additional cost for the traveler, Hopper pays the difference to the airline if you make changes to your trip.

  6. Know what options you have available: Before you head to the airport, take a look at the schedule for departing flights for that day so you’re aware of other flight options, if you do get delayed or experience a cancellation. 

More about Hopper’s Trip Protection:  https://www.hopper.com/flight-disruption-guarantee 

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