Air Travel

Friday Sound-Off: What are the Best and Worst Airports in the United States?

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A great airport can alleviate some of the stress of air travel, but a poorly designed airport can make an already stressful trip seem like a nightmare.

We have all been there before.  Your flight has been delayed, or even cancelled, and you are stuck in a lousy airport for hours-upon-hours.  It’s a horrible experience.  On the flip side, we all have airports that we genuinely enjoy.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that we would like to use our free time to hang in them, but these airports go above-and-beyond to make the experience for travelers less stressful.

Each year, J.D. Power does a study in which they rank the worst and best airports based on several key factors.  These factors include the following:

  • Overall Satisfaction
  • Airport Accessibility
  • Check-In\Baggage Check
  • Security Check
  • Food, Beverage, and Retail
  • Terminal Facilities
  • Baggage Claim

Airports are first categorized into one of three groups, depending upon their size – Mega, Large, or Medium.  Then, each airport is rated on the factors listed above, and then the results are tallied.  We took a look at the 2017 North America Airport Satisfaction Study that they put together, and the results were fascinating.

Before we get into which airports rated best and worst, we would like to know which airports you have had great and poor experiences at?   What made your experiences at those airports so good or bad?  We use these Friday articles as a means of starting a discussion among travelers, so that we can all learn from each other.  So, we want to hear from you!

We have always had great experiences at Detroit’s Metropolitan Wayne County Airport and the Minneapolis\St. Paul International Airport.  They have a great variety of food and shopping choices, and they are fairly easy to navigate.  On the other hand, our worst airport experiences have come at LaGuardia.  It always seems like we are stuck in the dungeon terminal (our naming) and getting around can be quite the challenge.

Best Airports

Nothing can distract you from the doldrums of air travel better than an airport that goes above and beyond to make your experience there as comfortable as possible.  These ten airports rated among the highest of all airports surveyed.

1. Tampa International Airport (Large Airport)
2. Dallas Love Field Airport (Large Airport)
3. Nashville International Airport (Large Airport)
4. Portland International Airport (Large Airport)
5. Indianapolis International Airport (Medium Airport)
6. Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (Medium Airport)
7. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (Mega Airport)
8. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (Mega Airport)
9. McCarran International Airport (Mega Airport)
10. Charlotte/Douglas International Airport (Mega Airport)

Worst Airports

On the other hand, being stuck in a lousy airport can dampen even the best travel experience, and make a bad experience seem like a nightmare.  These ten airports rated among the lowest of all airports surveyed.

1. LaGuardia Airport (Large Airport)
2. Newark Liberty International Airport (Mega Airport)
3. Bradley International Airport (Medium Airport)
4. Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (Medium Airport)
5. Los Angeles International Airport (Mega Airport)
6. John F. Kennedy International Airport (Mega Airport)
7. San Antonio International Airport (Medium Airport)
8. Philadelphia International Airport (Large Airport)
9. Kahului Airport (Medium Airport)
10. O’Hare International Airport (Mega Airport)

Breaking It Down

Each traveler is going to value different airport amenities over others.  What we find important, you may not, and vice versa.  In case you were wondering which airports scored highest and lowest in certain areas, we have broken that down for you.

Airport Accessibility

Your experience with an airport starts with your ability to get there.  The ratings for airport accessibility measure how easy or difficult it is for customers to access their airport.

Rated Among Highest

1. Tampa International Airport (Large Airport)
2. Dallas Love Field Airport (Large Airport)
3. Nashville International Airport (Large Airport)
4. Portland International Airport (Large Airport)
5. Indianapolis International Airport (Medium Airport)

Rated Among Lowest

1. LaGuardia Airport (Large Airport)
2. Newark Liberty International Airport (Mega Airport)
3. Bradley International Airport (Medium Airport)
4. Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (Medium Airport)
5. Los Angeles International Airport (Mega Airport)

Check-In\Baggage Check

The next factor the study looked at was check-in and baggage check.  The ease at which people are able to check-in and get their bags checked, and how long they must wait to do it, are key factors in this rating.

Rated Among Highest

1. Tampa International Airport (Large Airport)
2. Dallas Love Field Airport (Large Airport)
3. Nashville International Airport (Large Airport)
4. Indianapolis International Airport (Medium Airport)
5. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (Mega Airport)

Rated Among Lowest

1. LaGuardia Airport (Large Airport)
2. Newark Liberty International Airport (Mega Airport)
3. Bradley International Airport (Medium Airport)
4. Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (Medium Airport)
5. Los Angeles International Airport (Mega Airport)

Security Check

An important factor for travelers when using an airport is how long it takes to get thru airport security and how difficult that process is.  It is an exercise in logistics that some airports handle better than others.

Rated Among Highest

1. Tampa International Airport (Large Airport)
2. Nashville International Airport (Large Airport)
3. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (Mega Airport)
4. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (Mega Airport)
5. McCarran International Airport (Mega Airport)

Rated Among Highest

1. Tampa International Airport (Large Airport)
2. Nashville International Airport (Large Airport)
3. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (Mega Airport)
4. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (Mega Airport)
5. McCarran International Airport (Mega Airport)

Food, Beverage, and Retail

Nothing is able to sooth the frustrations of being stuck in an airport on a layover better than some good food and some interesting shops to pass the time in.  Some airports have a lot of great options to choose from, while others leave a lot to be desired.

Rated Among Highest

1. Nashville International Airport (Large Airport)
2. Dallas Love Field Airport (Large Airport)
3. Portland International Airport (Large Airport)
4. Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (Medium Airport)
5. Pittsburgh International Airport (Medium Airport)

Rated Among Lowest

1. LaGuardia Airport (Large Airport)
2. Newark Liberty International Airport (Mega Airport)
3. Bradley International Airport (Medium Airport)
4. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (Large Airport)
5. O’Hare International Airport (Mega Airport)

Terminal Facilities

One of the most important factors when it comes to airport satisfaction for travelers is the quality of the terminal facilities.  Ample and comfortable seating, charging facilities for devices, and clean bathrooms are just some examples of how adequate terminal facilities can make airports more comfortable.

Rated Among Highest

1. Nashville International Airport (Large Airport)
2. Dallas Love Field Airport (Large Airport)
3. Tampa International Airport (Large Airport)
4. Indianapolis International Airport (Medium Airport)
5. McCarran International Airport (Mega Airport)

Rated Among Lowest

1. LaGuardia Airport (Large Airport)
2. Newark Liberty International Airport (Mega Airport)
3. Bradley International Airport (Medium Airport)
4. O’Hare International Airport (Mega Airport)
5. Eppley Airfield (Medium Airport)

Baggage Claim

There are few things worse than trying to locate your baggage at the end of a long trip.  Airports with poorly designed or run baggage claim services can compound that and make a weary traveler’s experience feel like a nightmare.  On the flip side, airports that go above and beyond to make claiming your bag a breeze make the experience of air travel much less stressful.

Rated Among Highest

1. Dallas Love Field Airport (Large Airport)
2. Tampa International Airport (Large Airport)
3. Portland International Airport (Large Airport)
4. Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (Medium Airport)
5. Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (Mega Airport)

Rated Among Lowest

1. LaGuardia Airport (Large Airport)
2. Newark Liberty International Airport (Mega Airport)
3. Bradley International Airport (Medium Airport)
4. Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (Medium Airport)
5. Los Angeles International Airport (Mega Airport)

 

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4 replies »

  1. Unfortunately, I can’t comment on US airports, as I’ve little to no experience with them, but I can say that, over the years, I’ve been very surprised by the improvement in some European airports, such as Schipol in Amsterdam and Heathrow in London. I love how easy it is to check in and drop your bag with the machines they introduced at Schipol a few years ago. I also love how easily reachable these airports are!

  2. Although not the worst, LAX is where we head when doing international traveling. Due to its sheer size and traffic, we would much rather avoid it, and do so with our domestic flights. Thanks for the info Josh.

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