Airlines Doing Better This Holiday Season


U.S. airlines have done better this holiday season, but compared with last year, the bar wasn’t exactly high. According to a CNN report yesterday (Dec. 27), FlightAware data shows that less than 1% of flights were canceled this year during the Christmas holiday week. Of more than 162,000 flights scheduled from Dec. 20 to Dec. 26, only 1,100 did not make the cut.

In the last 10 days of 2022, by contrast, Southwest Airlines, alone, canceled 16,900 flights, stranding 2 million customers.

Still, delays (rather than cancellations) were not kind to Southwest in 2023. In the same timeframe, the airline suffered delays on 8,096 of its flights—27% of its schedule. To its credit, Southwest only canceled 2% of its flights over the Dec. 20 – 26 period.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said, “There’s a big difference between a delay and a cancellation,” adding that he considers even the rate of cancellations as “healthy.” However, he admonished, “that does invite us to pay more attention to the issue of delays and to press the airlines on how they’re behaving.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.


  1. I measure quality of airline flying with price and ease of dealing with the TSA goon squads. I see no improvements on either for years. Private flying and driving my great fossil-fuel SUV never looked better.

    • I agree. I’ll drive a 1,000 miles before I fly and I have. There is nothing good about the airlines as they currently are. They can go away and I will never miss them even when I stop flying. Give me a car, or, a motorcycle any day.

  2. Back when I had weekly business travel, I often had no option but to fly commercially, and it was quite literally the worst part of the job. Fortunately, my employer allowed me to fly myself, which I did as often as I could, with much less stress, even in challenging IFR conditions and complex airspace. Usually it was less expensive too, and surprisingly, the door-to-door times were usually less unless it was coast-to-coast.

    These days, I’ve come to abhor driving more than an hour anywhere. The Interstates around here are as stressful as a multi-hour instrument approach to minimums, with a far greater chance of something hitting you, or someone else’s misfortune blocking you for hours. Fortunately, most of the friends and family we visit live on or near a small airport. Admittedly, that cohort is probably a self-selected sample these days.

    The only good thing that all those frequent-flier miles bought me was two free trips to Australia, where we spent several weeks flying C-172s around the Outback. So, maybe it was worth it.

    Nah. If I ever get on a commercial airliner again, it will be in a casket.

  3. Love to fly, whatever manner, bored with driving nearly any distance as I age and the ‘great unwashed’ on the roads get dirtier and ruder. Only fly in the single digit rows on Delta now twice a year across the country to visit our son and always love the rush of power from the Pratt & Whitney’s on takeoff roll.

    Before my dad passed he worked for the TSA to supplement his retirement income at COS and would tell stories what he found and encountered from the travelling public. Cocaine in a doll’s head held tightly by a child, drugs in baseballs, bats and crutches, a handgun disassembled in an xbox game…

    He would say most people were pleasant enough, but when someone moved through the process with kindness and patience he took notice and it always made his day. He was proud of his work and cared greatly for the people to have a memorable flight for their visit, no matter how they treated him.
    Glad to hear the airlines are doing better this year from the crazy past one. Shoutout to the TSA agents, flight attendants and gate agents, some of us see you!

    • I started traveling for business back in the mid 1970s and up to 2015 when I hung it up. Even though I enjoy flying, I would have to say that business travel is rarely fun, even back then when going by air was a much nicer event than now. It seems to me that there are two major events that have shaped airline travel into the mess it is today. The first was deregulation of the airlines, which evolved into air travel becoming a commodity for the masses, rather than the domain of business and well-heeled families. The second was 911, which prompted the formation of the TSA. But, having said that, I don’t fault the individual TSA agents for being the problem. While there are a few I encountered that wouldn’t win any model employee awards, most are civil and businesslike and try to do a good job in the face of a sea of crying kids and stressed-out passengers. Theirs is an impossible task. Even if you catch 99.9% of the problems you look for, with 3 million holiday travelers, that still leaves dozens, if not hundreds, of things that slip through. I find that being polite and organized is the best way to get through with minimal fuss and bother.