There’s no place like home for the holidays—if you can get there.
Airport delays are so common during the winter holiday season that on Dec. 27 and 28 of last year, American travelers had only about a 61% chance of departing or arriving on time, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That’s 18 percentage points lower than 2018’s normal on-time performance.
Don’t blame the gate agents. Year-round, most delays are caused by aircraft arriving late, followed by carrier problems like staffing, cleaning, maintenance, heavy traffic volume, and bad weather. Congestion, in particular, is a growing problem as airlines jockey for passengers’ business with more departures and rock-bottom airfares.
Together, these delays cost the United States nearly $30 billion a year. The cost of passengers’ lost time constitutes half that figure, with rebooking fees, passenger compensation, and staffing making up the bulk of the remainder. So far in 2019, delays have eaten up 75 million minutes of U.S. passengers’ time.
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