During last summer’s travel boom, the chief executive of London’s Heathrow Airport told airlines to stop selling tickets due to a lack of staff. Amsterdam Schiphol has set a capacity cap. London Gatwick has reduced flights for July and August. Air Canada has reduced its number of flights by approximately 15%.
What should travelers expect for summer 2023? And where are they most likely to experience delays and cancellations?
Flight-tracking website FlightAware may offer some clues: Between Memorial Day and Labor Day in 2022, the US airports with the most delays and cancellations, in order, were: Newark Liberty International, La Guardia Airport and Kennedy Airport in New York. ; National Reagan in Washington; Miami International; Orlando International; Boston International Logan; and Charlotte Douglas International, in Charlotte, North Carolina
In Newark and Orlando, the worst delays of last summer, almost 35% of flights departing from these airports did not arrive on time at their destination. Newark also held the title for most cancellations last summer, with nearly 9% of flights canceled entirely.
Globally, the worst percentages of delays and cancellations, in order, occurred at international airports in Toronto, Sydney, Jakarta, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Munich and London (Gatwick and Heathrow). Toronto Pearson stood out from the pack, with more than half of outbound flights delayed and 7% of its departures cancelled.
It is unclear whether these airports will once again be the culprits for the misery of over-the-top travel. Some take preventive measures to try to avoid the summer wave.
At Toronto Pearson, limits are being placed on the number of flights arriving at and departing from the airport this summer, and improvements such as contactless check-in and staff reinforcements are being put in place. Amsterdam Schiphol has no summer cap, nor Heathrow.
In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a memo saying there would be an increase in delays in the northeast this summer compared to 2022, and so the agency is easing restrictions on airlines operating in Washington. , DC and New York to mitigate disruption.
But there are some strategies passengers can use to increase the chances of pain-free travel. On the one hand, avoiding the airports with the highest levels of delays and cancellations last summer may be a good idea. And flying nonstop eliminates the risk of something going wrong with the connection. But since the worst airports are also some of the biggest hubs for major airlines, it’s not always realistic to avoid them, and depending on where you’re flying from, you might be forced to connect.
But passengers can avoid traveling at peak times, such as when long-haul flights arrive, which can lead to overcrowding. Most long-haul overnight flights from the United States to Europe arrive at their destination cities between 6 a.m. and noon local time. The Customs and Border Protection Wait Times website can give an idea of the busiest times for international flights to the United States, so you can plan around those.
Booking the first flight of the day can also be a smart decision, because if the flight is canceled you are more likely to catch another flight the same day. Building some connection cushion time is an easy way to avoid headaches.
Keeping up to date with the complications that summer weather can bring can also help. In the past, smoke from wildfires in the western United States has affected airports in San Francisco, Denver, Seattle and Reno, Nevada. Hurricane season can cause delays at Gulf Coast and Atlantic airports like Houston, New Orleans, Miami and Atlanta. Even the heat itself can cause problems: Last summer, Luton Airport in London had to close after scorching temperatures caused the runway to warp, and Phoenix faced similar issues .