While searching flights, it seems like Tuesdays are typically cheaper. Got me thinking, should cheap prices be my omen that the airport will be crowded? Or maybe the other way around?

My real question is, prices aside, which day of the week is typically less busy at an airport?

I understand that each airport is different. But trends across airports do exist sometimes.

  • 8
    "Crowded" is not the same as "busy." The airport might process fewer passengers on a particular day (i.e. be less busy), but as a consequence the various entities within may staff fewer employees, leading to longer waits and longer lines; this is particularly noticeable with security and immigration checkpoints, which are usually the main pain points in traveling through an airport. At certain airports, cheap travel days/times mean lots of families and infrequent travelers, also contributing to crowds, especially at those checkpoints.
    – choster
    Oct 12 '18 at 13:43
  • 1
    I have voted this question for closing because in my opinion it is too broad. While average can be made worldwide to get a single figure, the airport the OP is targeting may be busier in different days. Too broad because airline price may not simply be related to crowding. If the OP may have asked for the correlation between prices and business for a certain airline/airport the question might have more sense IMO Oct 12 '18 at 17:01

Expanded Answer:

Since someone asked below I figured I'd expand on this. Here, I pulled the number of flights per day of week for the whole year 2018 by month:

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That's a lot of numbers to look at, but the summary looks like this: In total, there are around 8.6 million flights that either happened or will happen in 2018. The daily average is about 23,800. For each day of the week the averages are below:

Monday: 24,045

Tuesday: 23,678

Wednesday: 24,011

Thursday: 24,382

Friday: 24,886

Saturday: 21,944

Sunday: 23,549

So comparing these numbers shows us that (at least approximately) Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday are about average. Monday, Thursday, and Friday are, respectively, 1%, 2.5%, and 4% above average. Saturday, meanwhile, is almost 8% below average. Hence, it seems pretty clear that Saturday is the day with the fewest flights at the airport.

However, the same caveat from the original answer still applies: This doesn't necessarily mean that Saturday is less busy than the other days. To know that we would need to know the average load factor of airlines around the world. However, specific values of that number are not shared for competitive reasons so it comes down to my personal experience that indicates that Saturdays also have a significantly lower load factor than other days of the week. Lower load factor and fewer flights together should make that the least busy day at the airport.

Original Answer:

I just pulled the industry data for the month of October 2018 to check this out for you. Here are the world-wide totals for flights this month by day of week:

Monday: 108,578

Tuesday: 104,846

Wednesday: 105,977

Thursday: 107,926

Friday: 109,887

Saturday: 96,548

Sunday: 103,952

From this, you could conclude that Saturday is the least busy day at the airport, followed by Sunday and then Tuesday. Of course, the number of flights is not necessarily correlated with the busiest days at the airport because those flights may not be full. From my experience working at a major US airline, we expect, based on our historical data, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday to be our days with the lightest loads.

This explains why prices are cheaper those days. Airlines are trying to entice people to fly on Tuesday (for example) because our flights normally aren't as full that day. However, we still want to operate as close to a full schedule as possible because there is still enough demand. Finding the right balance is key to running a successful airline.

Source: Diio Mi, an airline industry data source.

  • 2
    I've noticed that while there might be less flights on Saturdays, there is much more inexperienced people (going on their yearly vacation or similar), hence the lines to security and check in are much slower than on week days with experienced business travelers. Fast track is usually empty though Oct 12 '18 at 19:46
  • To me the main conclusion is that the seven numbers are essentially equal. Saturday might be 10 % lower than the rest, and the rest are very close. For most purposes, no day of the week has less or more flights than another one. Oct 12 '18 at 20:08
  • Wow, that Saturday number is dramatically lower than the rest. Presumably most traffic is for weekend getaways, so they leave on Friday and return Monday, which explains why those are the busiest.
    – Barmar
    Oct 12 '18 at 22:52
  • While talking to my parking shuttle driver at LAX a few weeks ago, she said Tuesdays and Saturdays were her lightest days.
    – CramerTV
    Oct 12 '18 at 23:25
  • Whereas I have no doubts about the credibility of your answer would you please consider adding the source of this data? Oct 13 '18 at 3:06

No, flights are cheaper because it is harder to fill them, because less people care to travel on middle-of-the-week days. So as a general pattern, airports are less busy during those days.

Just think about why poeple fly - business = Mo-Fr, vacation = Fr/Sa/Su - Sa/Su. the remaing three days - Tu, We, Th - are used by people that fly for short business trips (which distribute about equal over the week), and people that are free to pick their days, which is the minority. Aside from holidays, the middle of the week is always the 'low season' for an airport.

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