The holiday season is one of the busiest travel times of the year, and those traveling by air often struggle through delays and canceled flights to reach their destination.
The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters poured over the data to determine which airlines and airports were the best and worst at helping travelers stay on schedule, looking at nearly nine million flights both in and out of U.S. airports starting from the beginning of last year.
"It's like herding cattle," said Robert Soltes, who was flying to Orlando from Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks. Mr. Soltes and his wife, Krista, said it is difficult to get themselves and their three children to the airport on time. Too often, the Solteses said, passengers end up through security checkpoints but then waiting at their departure gate.
"It changes the entire routine for the afternoon or evening," said Mrs. Soltes.
The airline industry classifies a 'delayed flight' as one that is more than fifteen minutes late.
"Oh, that's frustrating big time," said Chris Tuason, who was checking in to fly out of Bradley. He was hoping his flights back to his home in Austin, Texas would be on time. "Especially if I've got a connection, somewhere to be," he added.
Bradley, which is considered a small-medium hub airport, is certainly not immune to delays.
Statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation from all of 2016 and through summer 2017 show that of Bradley's 31,136 flights, 4,361 - 14.01 percent - did not depart on time. For arrivals, 4,76 flights - 14.38 percent - were delayed.
"The whole system really has to work together to keep those delays down," said Kevin Dillon, Executive Director of the Connecticut Airport Authority which operates Bradley. The airport serves approximately six million passengers each year. Dillon said many delays are beyond control.
"Not only are we subject to the weather, we're subject to the performance of other airports," said Dillon.
Among the 85 U.S. airports with a minimum of 14,400 flights a year, Bradley International Airport ranked 66th for its number of delays.
Number one in the nation for late departures and arrivals is Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), where one out of every four flights running behind schedule, according to federal statistics. Newark Liberty International Airport and San Francisco International Airport rank second and third.
"Right now people are spending more time on the ground going to and from planes than they are actually in the air, and that's getting worse, and worse, and worse," said Paul Hudson, president of the non-profit FlyersRights.org, which tracks flight delays.
Topping the list of airlines with the highest percentage of delayed flights were Virgin American at 29 percent, JetBlue at 29 percent, and Spirit at 21 percent.
A spokesperson from Virgin America told the Troubleshooters that construction and other projects at its major airport hubs on the west coast lead to increases in slowdowns, more so than other airlines.
"We've dramatically improved our on-time performance this year, including a record-setting number last month," a spokesperson from Spirit wrote, despite the airline's place in the rankings.
After several requests for comment over the course of a week, JetBlue had yet to respond.
"You cannot rely that the airlines will actually get you there when they say," said Hudson. "It can be almost life-changing. If you miss a wedding, a funeral, even a cruise or family reunion, these are things that aren't replaceable," he said of the consequences of a flight delay.
"It gets to the point of frustration," said Mrs. Soltes. "I hope to be on time."
The U.S. Transportation Department's Airline On-Time Performance Data, January 1 through July 31, 2017, shows that there are certain days a week with a higher number of delayed flights. Research showed that Friday had the highest percentage of delays. Of the 491,009 Friday flights at the nation's busiest airports, 106,832 (21.77 percent) were late departures and 110,336 (22.47 percent) were late arrivals. The day of the week with the lowest number of delayed departures was Tuesday (17.51 percent). Saturday was the day with the fewest arrival delays (17.94 percent).
Experts said passengers should consider flying out of smaller airports because they tend to have fewer delays, according to federal statistics.