What Are The Busiest & Quietest Days In The Week To Fly?

Arriving early at the airport can be fantastic if there is no one else around. There’s time to do a bit of duty-free shopping, grab a bite to eat or relax in the lounge. But there is nothing more frustrating than arriving in plenty of time only to find the queue for security is so long that you end up sprinting to your gate. Other days, you can plan to arrive just in time and find yourself sailing through an almost deserted airport with plenty of time to spare. So which days should you look to avoid if you want the airport to yourself?

PLanes queue on taxiway
Traveling midweek means you are less likely to have a busy airport and long queues. Photo: Simon_Sees via Flickr

Weekend vs. weekdays

When it comes to which day of the week is the quietest, there isn’t a definitive answer. It is worth doing some research into the airport you are flying from. However, Tuesday and Wednesday not only tend to be cheaper, but also less busy. This is because you have to take more days off work to fly mid-week, which people are usually reluctant to do.

Obviously, in contrast to this, traveling close to or over the weekend is more expensive as well as busier. Leisure travelers looking to enjoy a weekend away tend to go Friday and Monday. At the same time, passengers who commute every week for work also travel Monday and Friday to return home for the weekend. This is also why Sundays can be very busy as business travelers try to get a head start on the week ahead.

People traveling for extended vacations tend to travel during the weekend to maximize holiday time. So, Friday nights and Saturday mornings can see some airports busier than ever. Weekend flights are easily more expensive and are more in demand.

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
At the weekends, airports can be hectic as both business and leisure passengers travel at the same time.  Photo: Getty Images

The exception to the rule

There is one big exception to the rule: package holiday companies. For some tourist destinations, a large percentage of flights are operated by, or in partnership with, package holiday companies. In these cases, if you aren’t traveling with one of these companies, the quietest day is just whatever day isn’t changeover day.

Generally, there is a standardized changeover day (or days) when holiday companies carry vast numbers of passengers over two days. Typically, this is the weekend, but if they want to allow passengers a whole weekend at the destination, changeover day can be mid-week. If the changeover day is a Tuesday, then Tuesday will become the busiest day. This means the weekend might become very quiet. It’s always a good idea to check this out in advance.

TUI, Boeing 787, Dusseldorf
TUI is one of several airlines that operate flights for package holiday companies. Checking when companies have their changeover day will help to avoid the busiest time. Photo: Getty Images

The best time

As the old saying goes; The early bird gets the worm. If you can’t fly on one of the quieter days, then getting up early is your best option. If the flight leaves before 8 am, meaning you have to arrive before 6 am, you should be in for a quiet time. Few people bother to travel that early so it will be you and the airport staff.

However, not everyone can function that early. If you’re more of a night owl than an early bird, then flying at night is also a good option. It is likely to be busier than mornings as many people who fly for business will fly overnight to arrive in time for meetings the following day. So, although you will have to deal with a few other travelers, they are likely to be frequent fliers who not only know exactly where to go, but also won’t have accidentally packed liquids in their carry-on bags to cause havoc at security.

Overall

In general, traveling Tuesday or Wednesday will mean you avoid the highest fares and the busiest times. However, you will have to take more time off work if your job conforms to the normal working schedule. If you don’t have a choice, then an early morning flight will ensure you aren’t queueing for hours.

If you are unwilling to wake up early or stay up late and insist on traveling in the middle of the day, then you have to be prepared to face the crowds. Of course, if you’re flying over a holiday period or to a major event, then you may just have to pick a flight and hope for the best.

Do you have any tips or tricks for a smooth airport experience? Let us know in the comments!

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