Flying for business today inevitably means connections and layovers, thanks to capacity reductions by airlines. Fewer flights and smaller planes also mean greater chances of getting stuck with a much longer layover when you miss your connecting flight, since the next flight to your destination is likely hours away with all seats booked. 

The good news is that there are steps you can take to gain more control over your travel plans, even in the event of travel disruptions.

Avoid notoriously delayed airports. If there are no direct flights to your destination, opt to connect through an airport that experiences fewer delays. Obviously, flights through New York or Chicago are cheaper and easier to find, but you may save yourself time and money (not to mention stress) in the long run by flying through an airport with a better track record for running on-time. 

Traveling to the west coast? You’re in luck. The top 5 airports on the Department of Transportation’s on-time departure ranking report include Seattle; Portland; Salt Lake City; San Diego; Phoenix and Los Angeles. The worst? East coast wins hands-down: Newark; Baltimore; New York [JFK'; Miami; and Chicago [MDW].

Check if your flight is chronically delayed. If the DOT has its way, soon it will be easier than ever to see a flight’s on-time statistics - airlines will be required to post the information when consumers book a flight. For now, look up a flight’s rating before booking by searching the Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ airline on-time statistics database. 

What makes for chronic delays? Some are seasonal, depending on weather, some are situational, like runway construction. The top offenders typically vary by month - August’s top 5 included:

    • Alaska 308: Seattle to San Francisco, late 90.5% of the time, average delay of 75 minutes
    • Alaska 303: San Francisco to Seattle, late 90.5% of the time, average delay 77 minutes
    • Skywest 6824: San Francisco to Redding, CA, late 90% of the time, average delay 94 minutes
    • Delta 2357: Atlanta to Louisville, KY, late 81% of the time, average delay 108 minutes
    • Skywest 6505: Klamath Falls, OR to San Francisco, late 81% of the time, average delay 79 minutes

Find an alternative to late airlines. Good to know before you book: how often is your airline late? Check out the latest airline overall on-time stats in the DOT’s Air Travel Consumer Report issued in October. Best on-time rankings include Hawaiian, Alaska, United, US Airways and Mesa. The least on-time include Atlantic Southeast, Delta, ExpressJet, American Eagle and Comair.

While you may not be able to avoid connections and layovers or prevent travel disruptions, you can give yourself the upper hand by doing some research before you fly and taking advantage of the free statistics provided by the DOT. If all else fails and you end up stuck at a strange airport, at least find the best place to catch some shut eye at The Guide to Sleeping in Airports.