It’s well established that Thanksgiving is one of the busiest air travel periods of the year. Each year, there is lots of commentary around the domestic travel volume, but little attention is given to the international travel volume which also experiences a spike around Thanksgiving.
Upon arriving to the U.S. from international destinations, all passengers must pass through U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s clearance process. A passenger’s wait time for this clearance process is highly variable and driven by factors including volume of arriving passengers, number of open CBP processing booths, citizenship status, and the use of Global Entry or Mobile Passport.
Using CBP’s publicly available Airport Wait Time dataset, we analyzed 12 days of Thanksgiving 2018’s travel window (11/16/18 – 11/27/18) to predict the busiest days and times of Thanksgiving 2019’s travel window (11/22/19 – 12/2/18) at 25 of the highest volume airports. The end result was a 40-page report that is chock-full of interesting insights.
Don’t have time to read the full report? Below are some of the key highlights and an infographic:
– Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX) took the top spot (1st) as the airport with best wait time ranking for travelers arriving internationally. San Jose (SJC), Baltimore/Washington (BWI), Charlotte Douglas (CLT), and Philadelphia (PHL) rounded out the top 5
– Average wait times for U.S. passengers ranged from 4.9 to 14.1 minutes, demonstrating efficient operations
– Average max wait times for U.S. passengers ranged from 18.7 to 44.4 minutes
– The best days to arrive into the U.S. based on average max wait times are the Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving (11/30/19 & 12/1/19) with anticipated max wait times of 29.7 and 29.4 minutes respectively
– The lowest max wait times on average occur daily between 10-11PM and 1-2AM
– The highest max wait times on average occur daily between 4-6AM
– With the Mobile Passport App, most travelers wait only a fifth of normal wait time