Is the Airport Busy on Christmas Eve?

Airports · 5 min read · Dec 13, 2022
is the airport busy on christmas eve

Travel during the holiday season may be daunting. As if the winter holidays aren’t stressful enough, many people also have to fly during the busiest week of the year. It is no wonder many travelers plan out their trips well in advance in an attempt to avoid the major rush.

With Covid-19 no longer being a considerable factor affecting this holiday season, the number of travelers is expected to be exceptionally high. When such a considerable amount of people flock to the airports, the travel experience is bound to be challenging.

To avoid the frustrations of holiday travel, it is important to be informed about the best and worst days to fly. Here is an overview of how crowded airports are during Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the whole winter holiday season.

Holiday travelers in a Christmas decorated airport

Airport crowds on the 24th of December

To answer the titular question, the airport is actually significantly less busy on Christmas Eve than on the days preceding it. Since the majority of travelers want to spend the day together with their family, most of the flying is done a few days before. On the 24th of December you may experience less crowds, shorter waiting lines and faster boarding.

However, not all airport amenities will be available for you. Understandably, during the holidays the airport will not be working at full capacity. Duty-free and other stores, restaurants and various airport services might work during modified working hours. It is important to keep that in mind and make plans accordingly.

Another important aspect of Christmas Eve flights is that they tend to be slightly cheaper compared to other days during the Christmas week. However, since holiday travel is significantly more expensive than regular travel, the word ‘cheaper’ does not mean that you will save much.

If you don’t mind arriving at the last minute or even missing the Christmas Eve dinner with your family, flying on the day might be a good option. A less crowded airport and slightly cheaper tickets might be the much needed stress relief.

An empty airport boarding area lit up by the sun

The 25th of December in the airport

Travel on December 25 will be even less crowded than on Christmas Eve. Out of all of the departure dates, the day of the holiday has a significant drop in busyness. The 25th being the most important day of the holiday season for Christians, it is obvious that people do not want to spend it in an airport.

As on Christmas Eve, travelers can expect a less hectic boarding process and an emptier plane. Airport amenities, same as on Christmas Eve, will be limited. Regarding the crowdedness of the airport, the two main holiday days for many travelers are the best Christmas travel dates.

As for the price, interestingly, Christmas day tickets tend to be priced higher than the days around it. Airports possibly use the unfortunate situation of travelers who could only find tickets on the day. Although flying on the 25th is not ideal in itself, it is made worse by the expensive flight prices.

Taking last-minute winter holiday flights is also risky due to unpredictable weather. During winter, flights are often affected by heavy snowstorms. The reduced visibility can cause flight delays or even cancellations. Trying to fly home in the eleventh-hour might turn out differently than anticipated.

A completely empty airline plane

The Holiday Week

The week surrounding the holidays is one of the busiest of the year. Although on the two main days, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day the airports have fewer crowds, the surrounding days are exceptionally hectic.

The busiest and the worst Christmas travel dates are the 23rd and the 27th. These days rival even the worst thanksgiving travel dates. The majority of people depart to see their families or to a vacation destination on the last day before Christmas Eve. They make the return flight from their Christmas celebrations right after the three-day holiday.

It would definitely be best to avoid the 23rd and the 27th at all costs. However, the days around them are not ideal either. From the 21st to the 30th, excluding the Eve and Christmas day, traveling will be extremely crowded.

A busy airport means long lines, lost luggage and a frustrating flight. Unfortunately, for many this will be unavoidable, if the bookings will be made last-minute. The only way to have a calm and uneventful flight is to start planning the holiday travel well in advance.

Tips on planning December holiday travel

Although planning out holiday travel might not be the most exciting task during this time of the year, it is extremely beneficial to put some effort and some thought into it. Below is some useful information and tips on the factors that are worth taking into consideration.

Time of booking

Ideally, the plans for holiday flights should be made months in advance. September is the best month to make the bookings for winter holiday season. The time slots will be reasonable and the price will not have climbed to unattainable heights. If you are sure of your holiday plans, take note that most domestic and international flights are open for booking 11 months in advance. This booking window is usually valid for revenue and award tickets.

International flights

Specifically international flights tend to be cheap right when their bookings are released. Those who plan to spend the holidays abroad should really book international flights earlier.

Domestic flights

For domestic flights doing the opposite is more beneficial. The price for domestic flights tends to drop over time. But it is important not to leave the booking too close to the holidays, many airlines suggest booking domestic flights a few months in advance. Buying tickets for holiday travel in December will be more expensive. The times will also not be as convenient.

A crowded airport

Return flights

The airport crowdedness does not get better until long after New Year’s Eve. If there is any way for you to extend the vacation until at least January 4th it will be worth it. By then, prices should be lower and the busyness should be manageable.

Airport and flight choice

Although traveling from your usual airport might seem like an advantage, it is better to keep an open mind and assess all options. A smaller, less popular airport might have better offers.

When choosing a flight, you shouldn’t be picky about a connecting one. Although a flight with a few connections might seem like more of a hassle, it can often be more convenient.

Getting to the airport

If you are in a situation where traveling on the busiest days is inevitable, be sure to get to the airport as much in advance as possible. This will help you beat heavy traffic surrounding the airport and will possibly help you reduce the time standing in check-in lines.

Closing thoughts

Although airports are not as busy on Christmas Eve and Christmas day as the rest of the holiday week, it is important to assess other factors. The less crowded airport does mean a calmer experience, but whether it is worth the risk is up to you.

Last-minute weather changes, unavailable airport services and steep flight prices on the days between December 24 and 26 are all aspects worth taking into account when making your decision. Even if the holiday rush gives you a headache, opting to travel on Christmas Eve might not be the best way to avoid it.

However, if you are in a situation where taking a flight on a different day might not be an option, the mostly empty airport might be a good consolation. Make sure to prepare better next year. Following the information and tips presented in this article you will surely manage to plan a pleasant and stress-free trip next time.

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Jet pilot @NASA

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