Why This Is The Absolute Worst State In The US To Fly Into During Spring Break

As winter begins to thaw across the country, many people's thoughts turn to images of warm weather and sunshine. The vision of palm trees and beautiful beaches can motivate you through those cold days, knowing there's relief ahead. If you're planning a spring break getaway, it's important to know why a trip to some destinations might add to your troubles rather than relieve them. Many airports in the U.S. experience a high number of flight delays and cancellations during this period, and three of the airports that top the list are located in Florida.

The state epitomizes the idea of spring break. Its beautiful scenery provides a stunning backdrop for unique experiences you can only have in Florida. However, travelers who choose to fly into three popular airports in this state run the risk of seeing their plans disrupted. The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics provides a record of which airports encounter the most cancellations and delays, defined as when a flight leaves 15 minutes or more past its originally scheduled departure time. Analysts at aGamble compiled these statistics to create a list of airports with the most interruptions during March and April, which are considered peak travel times for spring break vacations. Miami International Airport placed sixth on the list, Orlando International Airport was third, and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport had the distinction of claiming the No. 1 spot.

Staff shortages continue

Florida is the favorite destination for travelers this season, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). "This time of year, many travelers are looking for warm weather, pools, beaches, and outdoor adventures," says Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA. "Americans continue to make travel a top priority, and AAA travel agents have been busy planning a wide range of vacations from weekend getaways to world cruises." In fact, their data indicates that travelers have selected Orlando as their favorite destination for spring break. Miami and Fort Lauderdale are chosen most often by those traveling by cruise ship. AAA has seen a significant increase in the number of cruises that leave from South Florida in 2024, particularly in the months of March and April. The large number of people passing through these three airports indicates one reason why these locations experience a higher-than-average number of flight interruptions.

The travel industry is still recovering from the staffing shortages incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the busier airports feel this effect more strongly, per USA Today. Tomasz Pawliszyn, CEO of AirHelp, indicates that "areas that have high tourism-to-local population ratios [...] often face staffing challenges." He says, "It's difficult finding backup options to service the needs of travelers passing through," particularly in the busiest airports. The U.S. Department of Transportation has indicated that most flight delays in recent years have been due to issues within an airline's control, which include staffing shortages.

Mother Nature steps in

Of course, some flight delays occur due to natural events, particularly in a state that has seen its share of severe weather. With its tropical location above the equator and wind pattern offshore, Florida experiences many tropical storms. For example, Fort Lauderdale experienced a storm in April 2023 that produced a record amount of rainfall during the height of spring break, per The Weather Company. As a result, Fort Lauderdale Airport was closed from Wednesday through Friday, and over 1,100 flights were canceled. One passenger who was stranded on a plane when the storm began claimed that the water all around the plane resembled a lake on the tarmac. The runway was completely submerged as more than 2 feet of water descended on the area over the span of just a few hours. D​avid Woodard, a regional manager for Frontier Airlines, added, "There was an understanding that what was going on out there was something that Mother Nature was doing and it was really just out of our control." 

Florida will continue to be a popular destination in the spring despite these factors. However, you can avoid some of the crowds at these popular airports by considering other Florida beaches that offer a relaxing vacation. In addition, this year you may feel inspired to consider new ideas for budget-friendly spring break destinations in the U.S. that will provide an escape from everyday life and a chance to have a great vacation.