Los Angeles International Airport temporarily lost its crown as the worst airport in America for delays on Thanksgiving to Denver International Airport, which suffered a complete travel meltdown this year.
This year’s Thanksgiving holiday is expected to be the busiest travel period in the history of the United States. Flight bookings on indicate that a record 28.5 million passengers will fly on U.S. airlines worldwide between Nov. 17 and Nov. 28. Airlines were expected to carry an average of 2.38 million passengers a day. The busiest day is expected to be the approximately 2.88 million traveling on Sunday, November 26. The lightest day was expected to be 1.61 million on Thanksgiving Day on November 23.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is America’s fourth-oldest airport, originally opening in 1929 and being upgraded in 1961. It was expected to be the nation’s “busiest origin-and-destination airport” by handling 2.3-million passengers over the twelve-day holiday period. The airport was the world’s fourth busiest and America’s second busiest in 2016. LAX is known for having the longest TSA security check lines, averaging 40 minutes and as long as 141 minutes in 2016.
Despite warnings from the FlightAware blog that Los Angeles would retain its 3-year crown for the worst Thanksgiving airport travel delays, LAX was not in the top 10 for flight delays on November 22 and November 23.
The LAX Twitter reported shockingly smooth operations on both Wednesday and Thursday. One traveler stated that at the height of the crowds on the late afternoon of November 22, it only took 11 minutes from curbside drop-off to clear TSA security and walk to her gate.
The winner of the booby-prize for this years’ worst delays was Denver International Airport (DIA), which suffered a nightmare combination of transportation accidents and equipment failures. Problems began at 4 a.m. on Wednesday, November 22, when both lanes of Denver’s I-70 main thoroughfare to DIA were completely shut down due to a crash involving two big-rig trucks and three cars. It took over four hours to reopen the freeway.
At about 7:15 am., a pedestrian trying to sprint across railroad tracks was struck by a Denver RTD A-Line train on the route that services the airport from downtown Denver.
The accidents grounded many planes as flight crews and airport grounds staff were unable to arrive in time to prepare flights.
Once passengers finally arrived at DIA, they were confronted with two long delays on the autonomous people-mover trains that service DIA’s terminals. The airport was forced to find and deploy qualified human drivers. As big and angry crowds mobbed the people-mover platforms, TSA shut down a security checkpoint.