US airlines deliver holiday improvement over the rough end to 2022, figures show

Dec 27, 2023, 5:09 PM

FILE - The list of Southwest Airlines flights cancelled grows at Phoenix Sky Harbor International A...

FILE - The list of Southwest Airlines flights cancelled grows at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Dec. 29, 2022. Thousands of air travelers faced flight cancellations and delays this weekend as thunderstorms traveled across the U.S. East Coast and Midwest. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

(CNN) — What a difference one year can make – as many people who traveled by air during the now-notorious last week of 2022 could tell you. But at the tail end of 2023, you’d mostly hear tales of improvement.

As the days between Christmas and New Year’s tick off, airlines are continuing their streak of few flight cancelations after last year’s disastrous holiday travel meltdown.

Figures from FlightAware show that US carriers have canceled less than 1% of all flights over the past week. Airlines scheduled more than 162,000 flights from Dec. 20 to 26 and canceled just 1,100 of them.

The FAA has warned that ground stops could go into place Wednesday for flights departing for major East coast airports in Philadelphia, Boston, New York and Washington as pilots and air traffic controllers battle low cloud ceilings and reduced visibility. But as of 3 p.m. ET, those ground stops have yet to materialize. Airlines have canceled only 129 flights in the United States and delayed another 3,800, according to FlightAware.

The scene is diametrically opposed to Southwest Airlines’ schedule meltdown over the last 10 days of 2022, which caused the cancelation of 16,900 flights and left two million passengers stranded.

Holiday air travel delays

Even still, Southwest Airlines has delayed the most flights of any US carrier during the holiday rush — roughly one in four flights over the last week.

From Dec. 20 to 26, Southwest delayed 27% of its schedule, or 8,096 flights. Only 2% of Southwest flights have been canceled over the same period. Southwest delayed another 985 flights — or one in five flights scheduled — on Wednesday.

Delays over the last week peaked on Tuesday, when US airlines delayed nearly 28% of all flights which arrived an average of 52 minutes late, according to FlightAware figures.

“There’s a big difference between a delay and a cancellation,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said last week during a news conference.

Buttigieg stressed the rate of flight cancelations are what he considers “healthy,” but “that does invite us to pay more attention to the issue of delays and to press the airlines on how they’re behaving.”

American Airlines said late Tuesday that a handful of its regional flights have been canceled because of weather, boasting that it “continues to have the fewest cancellations among major carriers this holiday period.”

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US airlines deliver holiday improvement over the rough end to 2022, figures show