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Holiday Travel

Busiest airports for Thanksgiving travel

Nov 08, 2010

CHICAGO - The Insider Index of the busiest airports during the 2010 Thanksgiving holiday has been unveiled today. This year's index features both time-saving tips at the nation's busiest airports, as well as a list of the least busy alternatives for Thanksgiving travelers that have not yet booked their flights.

"The Thanksgiving holiday is one of the busiest travel periods each year, and before we settle down for dinner with family and friends, most of us will face a few travel-related frustrations," said Jeanenne Tornatore, Senior Travel Editor of "Thankfully, there are some tips and tricks to help alleviate those frustrations, and for those still thinking about traveling, some great alternative airports that take you off the beaten path."

According to the Air Transport Association of America (ATA), travelers can expect to face a 3.5 percent year-over-year increase in the number of passengers on U.S. airlines expected during the last two weeks of November. The ATA projects a total of 24 million travelers taking domestic flights over that period.

Orbitz Insider Index Top 10 Busiest Thanksgiving Airports

This year, the Insider Index looked at the top 100 U.S. airports based on arriving, departing and connecting flights to determine the most and least busy for Thanksgiving travel between occurring between 11/23/10 and 11/29/10.

Chicago O'Hare International once again outpaced all other domestic airports over the Thanksgiving holiday, with 20 percent more flight activity than second place Los Angeles International. Boston Logan International ranks third on our list of busiest airports, with the three New York tri-state airports capturing the fourth (La Guardia), seventh (John F. Kennedy) and eighth spots (Newark).

Orbitz Insider Index: Busiest Thanksgiving Airports (1)

2010 Rank
Airport Name
Airport Code

Chicago O'Hare International
Chicago, IL

Los Angeles International
Los Angeles, CA

Boston Logan International
Boston, MA

New York LaGuardia
New York, NY

San Francisco International
San Francisco, CA

Denver International
Denver, CO

John F. Kennedy International
New York, NY

Newark Liberty International
Newark, NJ

Atlanta Hartsfield International
Atlanta, GA

Washington Ronald Regan National
Washington, D.C.

Washington Ronald Reagan National barely beat out Orlando International for the last spot, and is the only new entrant in this year's list (replacing Seattle Tacoma International from the 2009 list). Other major changes from last year include Boston Logan International climbing from sixth to third, and Atlanta Hartsfield International dropping from fifth to ninth in 2010.

Orbitz Insider Index Top 10 Least Busy Thanksgiving Airport Alternatives

The Orbitz Insider Index has good news for travelers still searching for flights to or from airports that have a less frenetic pace than their larger counterparts. For the second straight year, Orbitz is revealing its top 10 list of the least busy Thanksgiving airport alternatives.

While these airports aren't necessarily the least busy in the top 100 list, they are the least busy alternatives relative to other major airports serving destinations in the area, and should prove easier to navigate over Thanksgiving.

Orbitz Insider Index: Least Busy Thanksgiving Airports (2)

2010 Rank
Airport Name
Airport Code

Akron/Canton Regional
Akron, OH

Oakland International
Oakland, CA

Dane County Regional
Madison, WI

Chicago Midway
Chicago, IL

Providence T.F. Green International
Providence, RI

San Jose International
San Jose, CA

Nashville International
Nashville, TN

Palm Beach International
West Palm Beach, FL

John Wayne International
Orange County, CA

Bradley International
Hartford, CT

Orbitz Insider Index Tips and Tricks to Save Time and Frustration During Holiday Travel

Know Your Alternatives: There's usually a tradeoff when choosing between a major or alternative airport and you should know the difference before booking. In many cases, you'll gain convenience and accessibility in exchange for a smaller spectrum of flights. Akron / Canton Regional and Dane County Regional are reliable alternatives for travelers that don't mind an hour drive to Cleveland or Milwaukee. Additionally, Chicago Midway (Chicago), Oakland International (San Francisco), and John Wayne International (Los Angeles) are very close alternatives to the larger airports in their respective markets.

Patience is a Virtue: Don't expect all of your Thanksgiving travel plans to happen without a hitch. You may face a delay or be asked to make alternative plans at some point. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best and build buffers into your itinerary to mitigate any one-off disruptions without jeopardizing your entire trip (and sanity).

Travel Light: This is both a money and time saver for any Thanksgiving traveler. Pack light to save on the fees and additional time required to check bags. This will also make the next tip more valuable.

Online Check-In: You should check-in online and print your boarding pass before heading to the airport, particularly if you are traveling light. Alternatively, some carriers now allow you to check in from your smart phone and use a digital bar code that appears on the device screen to pass through security checkpoints. Until that technology is more widely accepted, however, we recommend that you print out your boarding pass just in case.

Security Line Scramble: This is the biggest bottleneck in any airport over Thanksgiving. A little pre-planning can vastly cut down your individual time (unfortunately, it still won't help speed up the group in front of you). Keep your ID and boarding passes in the same pouch or pocket, and your liquids, medication and other red flag items in an easily accessible compartment of your carry-on bag. Always be prepared to take off your shoes, belt and/or large metal jewelry. Your laptop needs a separate bin, and you best find a new home for the loose change in your pocket.

(1) Busiest airport data based on air ticket bookings of the top 100 domestic airports on with arrivals and departures between 11/23/10 and 11/29/10.

(2) Least busy airport alternatives data based on air ticket bookings of the top 100 domestic airports on with arrivals and departures between 11/23/10 and 11/29/10.

Busiest airports for Thanksgiving travel
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