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You Can Now Bet On Which Airline Will Cancel The Most Flights Over Thanksgiving

Forbes 11/16/2022 Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, Forbes Staff
BetUS hopes Americans will bet on Thanksgiving travel woes this year. getty © Provided by Forbes BetUS hopes Americans will bet on Thanksgiving travel woes this year. getty

Forget betting on games in the NFL or in college football this Thanksgiving. Online gambling company BetUS.com (pronounced Bet U.S.) says it is hoping to start a new turkey-day tradition: betting on flight cancellations and delays.

In business since 1994, the Pennslyvania-based, privately held company typically offers sports betting, casino games and horse racing. Now you can add Thanksgiving travel woes to the mix.

With barely more than a week until Thanksgiving, the AAA is forecasting air travel to be up nearly 8% over 2021, with 4.5 million Americans flying to their Thanksgiving destinations this year.

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But challenges remain on the horizon. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said earlier this week that travel infrastructure has improved since this summer, when travelers were confronting thousands of flight disruptions per day. But as he told NBC’s Lester Holt, “As we get ready for Thanksgiving and then the winter holiday travel season, we’re not out of the woods yet.”

Most of this summer’s issues reflected a system straining to quickly spool back up to pre-Covid travel levels. Airlines and airports still struggle to find sufficient staff, and there’s even been a shortage of aircraft due to supply chain problems at Boeing and Airbus.

All of this inspired BetUS to create a brand new betting category. “There has been a lot of talk and predictions about how chaotic Thanksgiving week travel could be this year, and we figured what better way to make the best of a potentially bad situation,” says Tim Williams, director of public relations for BetUS.

So do you like favorites or long shots? At 2:1 odds, Alaska Airlines is the odds-on favorite to cancel the most flights this Thanksgiving week, according to BetUS. A $100 bet on Alaska Airlines could result in a net profit of $200 to the bettor, as well as the return of the $100 stake. Ultra-low-cost-carrier Frontier Airlines is the next biggest favorite, with 2.75:1 odds.

JetBlue is the longshot with 9:1 odds. Among the “Big Four” carriers, BetUS oddsmakers think United Airlines (3.5:1) will cancel a higher percentage of flights compared to Delta Air Lines (4.5:1), Southwest Airlines (4.5:1) or American Airlines (7.5:1).

“You can even bet an over/under on the total number of canceled flights as easily as you can bet the over/under on the total points scored on the Thanksgiving football games,” says Barry Barger, senior betting analyst at BetUS.

The minimum bet is $5 and the maximum is $50. “Customers can request larger bets using our online chat or by calling customer service,” says Williams. “Even a $50 wager can produce a big return.”

That’s if a longshot comes in. A $50 bet on JetBlue to cancel the biggest percentage of its flights during Thanksgiving Week would pay out pay out a net profit of $450.

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Bettors can also put money down on which airport will suffer the most cancelled flights. Two California airports — Los Angeles International (LAX) and San Francisco International (SFO) — are the favorites at 1.5:1 and 1.75:1 odds. Interestingly, airports that are more inclined to see inclement weather this time of year — Chicago’s O’Hare and New York’s LaGuardia and JFK airports — have steeper odds so far.

To set the initial odds, BetUS’s oddsmakers analyzed carriers’ and airports’ historic performance for Thanksgiving weeks going back to 2015. “As with sports betting, the odds could change depending on how the betting public places their bets,” says Williams, noting that oddsmakers may adjust odds accordingly. “However, when you place a bet, your individual wager ticket is locked in at the odds as they were when you placed the bet.”

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