Transportation

DIA on Labor Day Weekend: Odds Your Flight Will Be Delayed or Canceled

More than twelve million people in the U.S. are expected to travel by air over this Labor Day weekend, and the Hopper website predicts that Denver International Airport will be one of the three busiest airports in the country, along with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport. Estimates for the number of passengers who'll use DIA over these days generally fall between 500,000 and one million.

How likely are those people to have their flights delayed or canceled? With the exception of 2020, when American airports were shaken to their foundations during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the chances of such snafus are greater than at any point over the past decade, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, a U.S. Department of Transportation agency.

On its TranStats web page, the bureau provides data on airports nationwide, with the numbers grouped by arrivals and departures. For DIA, the number of flight operations in both categories is the highest since at least 2013: 129,211 arrivals and 129,215 departures. But just 76.48 percent of arriving flights are classified as having been on time, and the 3.05 percent of flights canceled so far this year — 3,947 that never arrived — is higher than any year in the last ten, other than 2020.

Here is the bureau's arrivals chart for DIA from 2013-2022.
Meanwhile, on-time departures for 2022 landed at 67.89 percent, easily the worst performance since 2013, and departure delays hit 37,708, far outdistancing the 26,159 arriving flights that were late. Departing-flight cancellations reached 2.92 percent, the poorest mark in a decade for any year other than 2020; so far in 2022, 3,778 flights that were supposed to leave Denver's airport didn't.

Here are the departure comparisons for DIA:
Of course, delays and flight cancellations aren't unique to DIA, particularly in this post-pandemic period. Indeed, the Denver airport's 2022 cancellation stats for arriving flights (3.05 percent) and departing flights (2.92 percent) are better the national average of 3.20 percent in both categories, and its on-time rate for arriving flights is actually slightly higher than the national average: 76.48 percent compared to 75.89 percent. But DIA's 67.89 percent for on-time departures lags far behind the national average of 75.83 percent.

Nonetheless, travelers preparing to jet off from Denver International Airport to somewhere special for Labor Day weekend should be prepared for something to go wrong — because it certainly could.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts