How to Avoid Airline Delays

National Geographic Traveler editor at large Christopher Elliott is the magazine’s consumer advocate and ombudsman. Over the past 15 years he has helped countless readers fix their trips.

Here’s his latest advice:

Reader question: Is it possible to avoid air delays?

My answer: Some delays are unavoidable, like those caused by a mechanical failure. But you can stay ahead of others to a certain extent.

FiveThirtyEight.com’s new delay predictor tells you the statistical likelihood of being held up at each airport. For example, the tool recently informed me that flying out of hyper-busy JFK would add 24 minutes to my travel time, but if I flew out of Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip, the delay would be only 16 minutes.

More tips:

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Get on the first flight of the day, which uses a plane that’s parked at the gate overnight.

Book a nonstop flight, which typically steers clear of the busiest airports, and check its on-time rating at FlightStats.com. Wiser yet, allot extra time so a delay won’t derail your plans.

Christopher Elliott is the author of How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler. Follow him on Twitter @elliottdotorg.

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