What Are The Worst Airports In The U.S.?

Though La Guardia Airport is by far the least-busy of the three major airports in the NYC area, it managed to put a bad taste into enough travelers’ mouths to end up on the top of a new survey of the worst airports in the nation.

Travel + Leisure recently surveyed its readers on the 22 major airports in the U.S., asking them to consider a range of factors from baggage handling and cleanliness to location and WiFi availability.

La Guardia came in last its check-in and security process, baggage handling, WiFi, staff communication, and design and cleanliness.

“If there was a ray of hope, its location, which ranked 16th, was considered superior to six other airports,” writes T+L.

But before the other NYC airports start razzing their smaller cousin, they should look at how they fared on the survey.

JFK had the fourth-worst overall score. It came in 19th place for its long waits at check-in, security, and baggage pick-up. The staff was not helpful and good luck finding WiFi. And while LaGuardia may suck at most everything else, at least it’s closer to Manhattan than JFK, which ranked 21st out of 22 for its location.

Then there’s Newark. It was ranked 11th for location and convenience, but a 16th-place score for staff communication and 18th-place results for design, cleanliness, baggage handling, and check-in and security lines meant the New Jersey member of the NYC trio was ranked fifth-worst overall.

Showing no East Coast bias, T+L readers picked Los Angeles International as their runner-up for the worst airport title. It ranked at or near the bottom for location, check-in and security, safety standards, baggage handling, staff communication and cleanliness.

Rounding out the top five is Philadelphia International’s third-place finish. PHL came in 20th for design and cleanliness, its staff, check-in and security lines.

On the other end of the spectrum is Minneapolis-St. Paul International, where readers raved about the shopping and food and drink options. It was also the top finisher for check-in and security.

Charlotte/Douglas International and Detroit Metropolitan were finished second and third on the positive end of the survey.

If you like slideshows — and who doesn’t? — check out the entire list here.

Comments

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  1. That guy. says:

    I’ve dealt with Newark more often than any other airport (maybe a few dozen times), and I have no problem with it. Maybe it’s because I’m so familiar with it.

    It’s certainly not as easy as a smaller airport, and being so busy (and international in nature) I just always assume airports are some of the diritiest places on Earth.

  2. homehome says:

    Charlotte-Douglas is nice and pretty conveinent. MSP is nice as well, I hate Milwaukee’s airport, when I walk in it feels like the 1980s. It just looks ugly, plus everytime I go to that particular airport, my ears get destroyed. Last time I was there my hearing was impaired for 3 days. I like Atlanta’s airport, I always find myself entertained there when I’m waiting.

    • MutantMonkey says:

      I like CLT as well. Living here it is nice to have an airport that moves people relatively quickly while have concourses spaced out just far enough to not cause massive congestion, but not so far to require a tram ride.

      The amenities and restaurant offerings are nice as well. The Tequilaria is a place I usually stop at for a pre-flight drink.

      • southpaw1971 says:

        Howdy neighbor! I’m a fan of CLT as well. The rocking chairs are nice. It’s easy to navigate. Surprisingly unpainful.

    • Mambru says:

      CLT is pretty nice, specially they don’t seem to over price the food much is high but not as high. MSP I like but sometimes Navigating from terminal A to the rest can be tricky.

      SLC I don’t like much specially bc their lack of food selection, the regional terminal is a Joke a lot the share 1 P.A system and they have like 20 gates next to each other, it can give youa headache quick!

      LGA and JFK I hate, specially their staff (any worker there no matter what airline, restaurant, or tsa) they big Aholes I try to fly lga bc is cheaper to get a cab to the city $50+ from JFK is a tad much.
      Also in my sh*t list are FLL and MIA, FLL is crammed and MIA has tons of bad people working there, getting MIA is a pain in the butt and food and parking are ubber expensive.

      Oralndo MCO needs to get more security lines specially in a town where a lot of flyers come with kids.

      I have no option but to fly through ATL, I don’t hate it but 45 min layover is cutting it way too close, also their bathrroms are always always packed (guy needs some concentration time )

      O’hare I like its design although they seem to have a lot of delays and some regional flights leave early (this pisses me off a lot)

      HOU and LAS are nice too, and I like Denver (although I only made connections there)

      PBI and ALB are by far my favorite mid size airports

      I was surprised with how busy Wichita ICT is in the mornings, it felt like being in a major Airpot

  3. HowardRoarksTSquare says:

    Philadelphia – that’s it bar none

    • Hawkins says:

      Amen, Mr. Square. Philadelphia should be at the bottom of the list. It’s been under construction for years, and will be for the forseeable future.

      Denver and Atlanta are large, yes, and take a while to get from one gate to another, but at least the people who work there don’t openly detest the traveling public. Really, it’s like they all want to kill you. Arriving international passengers, for example, are told to pile their luggage in a heap; three minutes later, a different angry screaming airline employee tells everybody that any luggage in the pile will be removed and destroyed.

      Yes, they do have Au Bon Pain stores, but that’s not enough to move them from dead last.

    • captadam says:

      Beat me to it.

      Flying into Philly is like being greeted by a kick in the ass.

    • bdgbill says:

      Have to agree. JFK sucks too but at least they have Starbucks.

    • prosumer1 says:

      Could not agree more. PHL sucks. Asking a simple question will earn you a dirty look. A hitty airport to match a shitty city.

  4. phil says:

    Almost every bad flying experience I’ve had has included O’Hare…

    • cosmic.charlie says:

      What is with all this animosity with O’Hare? I can get (relatively) connection free flights to most parts of the world. There aren’t too many food options, but there is always a place to get some chain restaurant food and a drink.

      Yeah winter weather can suck, but O’Hare handles it pretty well. They have plenty of snow removal equipment so it isn’t too bad. They have parallel runways in three different directions so they average a plane taking off and landing every minute of every day.

      • cromartie says:

        Where do I begin.

        I’ve been flying through O’Hare for 15 years, and I have never been able to get out on time. Ever. Every single flight into or out of O’Hare has been delayed. All of them. It’s happened so often that I have found it easier to drive to Chicago than fly.

        This is before we get to the fact that there’s no parking, you run a not unreasonable chance of getting your car stolen or broken into if you leave it there, there are no places to plug in your laptop when your outbound flight is delayed, it’s old and ugly and you have to pay tolls to get there. And no complimentary wifi. And it’s overcrowded, unless you’re flying internationally.

        And this is before we get to the fact that you fly United or American into or out of there, two dreadful airlines.

        About the only positive is that you can take the train into or out of there. But then again, you can do that out of Midway as well.

        • cosmic.charlie says:

          I fly out of O’Hare all the time and for the most part we leave on time. Also because traffic is so busy over O’Hare you have a specific landing spot, this means that flying back the airlines fly faster to make up any time caused by delays in departure from other airports.

          There are some outlets you just need to look for them, I agree that it would be better if there were outlets under the bars like there are at other airport restaurants. I have spent plenty of time charging my laptop in the Louisville airport because the flights are delayed.

          Tolls? BFD, welcome to Illinois.

          I have never heard of a problem with cars being stolen or broken into. Is there a particular reason you feel that way?. There are plenty of parking places nearby that are cheaper and will drive/pick you up at the terminal.

          Also are you some how insinuating that Midway is a more comfortable airport to fly in/out of?

    • Dagny Taggart says:

      I used to work ten minutes from O’Hare, and still flew out of Midway whenever I could, and still do. There are far fewer flight delays, much quicker from remote parking to gate (and cheaper), and they have Southwest.

      It would not be uncommon for me to be on a business trip with colleagues who flew back into O’Hare, will I flew to Midway. On several occasions, I would land at Midway before they had even boarded their plane, even though our flights were scheduled within 15 minutes of each other. The reverse has never happened.

  5. Gman says:

    I’ll go entirely personal on this: For me it is Atlanta as the worst. I am sure there are many, many others. But I have not visited them yet. Atlanta purely because wherever I land to transfer to another flight it is always at least two terminals and a ten minute run-walk-shuffle away.

    Aye petty and entirely FWP.

    • kaptainkk says:

      It might be because it’s the busiest airport in the freaking world!

    • CommonSense(ಠ_ಠ) says:

      There is nothing wrong with atlanta.
      It is big so yes you have to walk, but that is the airline’s fault not atlanta’s.

      The worst airport is La Guardia where you have to leave security to transfer to another terminal and go back through security again.
      It is the worst airport in the US.
      At least in atlanta you dont have to keep going back through security.

    • aerodawg says:

      Inter-terminal transit is so time consuming, that if I’m forced to connect through ATL, I factor in at least 1.5 hours between flights. It’s also why I avoid ATL if at all possible…

  6. Guppy06 says:

    DEATH TO HARTSFIELD-JACKSON!

    • kaptainkk says:

      Why the naysayers?! I’ve been to ATL at least a dozen times and I find it to be very clean, contemporary and efficient.

      • cromartie says:

        I like ATL as well. But I think the problem stems from the fact that connection times are probably too tight for the layout of the airport, particularly if you’re flying airTran.

      • beachmouse says:

        The last round trip flight I had was supposed to connect through ATL both ways. Result 36+ hours of flight delays caused by both weather issues (thunderstorm) and just too effin’ many planes trying to take off and land at once.

        Like a lot of folks in the Southeast, I miss NWA and their heavy use of Memphis as a hub. The scale of Memphis is so much better, and you get maybe 20% of the delay problems there compared to ATL’s issues. Plus, the barbecue places make the terminals smell wonderful.

      • Brad Ackerman says:

        Beyond what other people have said, ATL has at best a third of the foodservice capacity it needs. Always a long line to get anything.

    • Autoexec.bat says:

      Don’t you ever say an unkind word about ATL.

  7. MutantMonkey says:

    O’Hare sucks a big one.

  8. dolemite says:

    Atlanta. I’m convinced they have no idea what they are doing.

  9. crispyduck13 says:

    I *LOVE* the Detroit airport. Everything about it, it’s fantastic. Nice to see Philadelphia Intl is as much of a shit-hole to other people as it is to me.

    • katarzyna says:

      Agreed. I’m also thrilled that something in Detroit ended up on the “good” list instead of the “bad” list.

  10. 8bithero says:

    Denver…

    I loathe Denver.

  11. shaken_bake says:

    I seriously hate those lists where you have to navigate a slideshow to find out the facts… too slow and who the hell cares what the airport looks like, just give me the list!!

    • Lackwit says:

      Ah, but think of all the targeted advertising you’d miss out on if it was all on one page!

  12. CommonSense(ಠ_ಠ) says:

    I hate La Guardia. It is the worst.
    You cannot transfer between terminals without leaving security and hopping on a bus and then going back through security.
    It makes no sense that they do this.

    Why not have a walkway or buses inside security so you dont have to go through security multiple times???
    Also dont forget how the inside ot the airport looks like it is falling apart with all the exposed wires and broken ceiling tiles.

    I actually think O’hare is a good airport as it is quick to get through to your gate. I dont have any complaints about O’hares layout at all.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      You realize that you have to exit security and re-enter it to change terminals at O’Hare, right?

      • CommonSense(ಠ_ಠ) says:

        LOL, I guess you never been to Ohare so why did you comment??
        You CAN transfer terminals without going through security at Ohare.
        Next time you are there check a map.

        • NeverLetMeDown says:

          1. Never been through O’Hare? Funny. I’m through there 25x a year, easy.
          2. While you’re discussing looking at maps, please let me know how you connect from Terminal 5 to any of the other terminals without exiting security. Sure, if you’re doing an intercarrier domestic change (a reasonably rare occurance), you can do it without going outside security, but for int’l flights, no dice.
          3. For LaGuardia, connection traffic is less than 15% of total; most traffic is terminating or starting there, so even same-airline connections aren’t that common, and multi-airline connections are very rare. O’Hare, on the other hand, is a huge connection airport (about half of arrivals and departing passengers are just changing planes there).

        • NeverLetMeDown says:

          Oh, and you can change terminals without exiting security, from C to D at least. If you’re going from B, however, you do need to exit security, or if you’re coming into the Marine Air Terminal (the best place to fly into or out of in the country).

  13. iesika says:

    Phoenix didn’t make the list again?

    • vastrightwing says:

      That simply means that the airport is simply medeocre. That’s not a bad thing. Funny thing is, I seem to travel through all the worst ones. That figures.

    • DoodlestheGreat says:

      I’ve been to many of the airports on this list. Yeah, Phoenix isn’t as bad as a lot of others.

      Makes ya sad, don’t it?

  14. valthun says:

    I would say LAX for putting Southwest at Terminal 1. It’s the busiest terminal after Tom Bradley. But at least Tom Bradley is at the back of the airport. Southwest is terminal 1. To get to another terminal you have to fight the cars parked in the road trying to pull in and pick-up or drop off passengers at that terminal. Just about any other airline could be at terminal 1 and it wouldn’t be as crowded. Southwest should be at terminal 3 or 4 just to alleviate some of the entrance traffic.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      Take the little shuttle. It takes you right to your terminal with your carry-on. BF and I did this last year from the rental car place and it was awesome. I do remember getting out with the car when we got there took a while, and it was dark and late and we both were tired. This year, we’re both getting in around 4:30 pm and he’s picking me up.

      My only problem was trying not to cry on the stupid bus after he got dropped off. Giant sunglasses FTW.

  15. KTK1990 says:

    I love the Pittsburgh airport and was a little surprised to see it wasnt listed, but I guess because its smaller.

    One main security checkpoint line, then an awesome and fun underground train ride to the middle of the terminals, which are laid out in an X shape.

  16. Nobby says:

    This survey is invalid. In fact, any “worst of” survey that does not include somehow include Chicago in the top three is bogus.

    • CommonSense(ಠ_ಠ) says:

      I fly Ohare all the time and it definately is not in the top 3.
      Ohare is actually one of the better airports.

  17. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Airports I’ve been in:

    Springfield/Branson Regional: nice, little, easy to get through security (even at Thanksgiving – less than five minutes!). Wi-fi works great.

    Tri-Cities in TN: ditto. Wi-fi– didn’t use.

    Branson: double ditto. Teeny! TSA is actually friendly! Wi-fi– ??.

    O’Hare – was huge but years ago, and I don’t remember having any trouble. Have to go through here again in August to get to LAX (good God). Hoping for no problems. Wi-fi– didn’t use but I don’t think it’s free. >:( As long as I have a plug, I can play Machinarium or something on the laptop.

    LAX: so big it has its own zip code. MESSY! Last year they were remodeling. I hope they’re done now. NO FREE WI-FI! >:(

    Denver: okay. If you’re in the United terminal near the 80s gates, hit Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli. Delicious. Free wi-fi. YAY! Although sometimes if you get behind a pole, it drops off. Just change seats.

    Jacksonville, FL: very clean, nice decor, easy to get around. Wi-fi– didn’t use.

    DFW: in 1983, I remember it as very dark, ugly and hard to navigate. Now it is bright and clean and has the train. I LOVE THE TRAIN. It’s like a carnival ride–whoosh! Wi-fi– didn’t use.

    Atlanta: big. Big big big. I didn’t take the train last time and had to run like a mad thing. Next time I’ll take the train. But very little trouble getting around and the employees were polite. Wi-fi– didn’t use.

    Lambert in St Louis: NO. Never fly during March Madness/Spring break. TWO HOURS for security; I missed my plane. This was at 6 am! If I took Southwest from there to Tucson, I could save $100 on airfare, but after driving 3-4 hours to get there, parking, etc., the savings evaporate. Wi-fi– didn’t use.

    KCI – long ago. Was okay. I remember it as ugly. Wi-fi– didn’t use (didn’t exist).

    Heathrow: I remember it as huge, crowded and ugly. Wi-fi– didn’t use (didn’t exist).

    Tucson: Nice, simple, easy to get through. Weirdo sculpture of a suitcase with shirts in it LOL. Wi-fi works great.

    Phoenix: meh. Cramped. Wi-fi– didn’t use. Wasn’t there long enough.

    Dulles: years ago, and I don’t really remember it. Was on Eastern Airlines, if that gives you a clue as to how long it was. Wi-fi–didn’t use (didn’t exist).

    SFO: again, too long ago. No wi-fi then either.

    Wow, now that I make a list, I’ve been in quite a few airports. I really wish the bigger airports had free wi-fi. There are so many people going through there it’s a cash cow for them to charge for it, but it’s annoying. Like paying more for a better hotel room and getting shafted on the intertubes.

    • fatediesel says:

      There are certain areas at O’Hare with free Wi-fi. Last time I flew through there the terminal my flight went through had free Wi-fi, but when I was in other areas you had to pay for Wi-fi.

    • rmorin says:

      I don’t know if I can trust you, knowing that you have been to Branson, MO at least twice.

      It’s like Las Vegas … for the Duggar Family.

    • Aiesline says:

      Personally I don’t mind STL- Lambert. I’ve never been in that long of a security line there. I fly out from there generally 4 or 5 times a year.

  18. BoneThugg77 says:

    The domestic terminals at O’Hare are not especially bad. However, the international terminal is a disgrace. It’s an epic fail in terms of efficiency, in security, in architecture, in concessions, in booze, in every way imaginable. As a Chicagoan, I’m embarrassed that O’Hare’s Terminal 5 is the first bit of America that many foreign visitors see.

  19. fearuncertaintydoubt says:

    Just flew using Charlotte for the first time last week. Free wi-fi, zero-wait security line, nice big waiting areas, comfy feel, nice layout, easy to find power outlet. Liked it a lot.

  20. Cerne says:

    Florida has some great airports (at least by Canadian standards) in the last 18 months I’ve been to Tampa and Orlando. Both airports were great.

  21. GJaunts says:

    Maybe it’s because I typically fly short domestic flights, but I ALWAYS end up in the stupid terminal at Philly where you have to take the bus to get back to the main terminal. Terminal F, is it? Ugh, nothing like running to catch your connecting flight…. then waiting in line for a slow-moving tram to your actual terminal.

    And Newark. Newark is the bane of my existence. Every regional flight goes through that pit.

  22. APFPilot says:

    I fly about an average of once a week, 99% on Delta. I love Atlanta, it is laid out in a way that makes sense. It easy easy to get from one terminal to another (even walking.) They have a ton of runways so the wait is almost never that bad to take off. I also really like MSP and DTW although MSP is kind of a cluster fuck to navigate and the regionals are far away. I loathe LAX luckily I can just connect through it most of the time.

  23. ferozadh says:

    JFK. It’s like Waterworld, without the water.

  24. Jemish says:

    I would rate Memphis high in uncomfortable and weird. Only airport I’ve ever been in that had a TSA agent just hanging in the bathroom.

    Not using the facilities, just yanno, keeping an eye out.

  25. shthar says:

    Whicheverone I’m in at the time…

  26. prosumer1 says:

    I travel almost weekly. Here are my best and worst list:

    Best: PHX, MSP, CLT, SNA, SEA

    Worst: PHL, HOU, IAD, LAX, ORD

  27. Autoexec.bat says:

    ¡DCA! ¡DCA! ¡DCA!

    • HenryES says:

      Seconded; you can’t beat the location to downtown DC, and there’s plenty of places to eat both air and groundside.

  28. JMH says:

    The way they evaluate location is out of sync with the transportation realities of NYC. Sure, LaGuardia is closer to Manhattan, but it’s also less accessible because getting there using transit requires a loooooong bus trip. Getting to JFK is much easier by taking the subway or LIRR to the AirTrain. Heck, even Newark is an easier trip by transit.

  29. Bor&Mitch says:

    I didn’t realize how much of an embarrassment La Guardia and U.S. airlines were in general until I started flying internationally. Even many supposedly 3rd world countries put us to shame.

  30. weave says:

    Any airport where you have to exit airside to transfer to another flight. Like at SFO. If you’re flying a codeshare between US and UA you have to do the entire reclearing security BS. Same with SMF and many others. For all the PHL haters, at least (except for inbound International transfers) you don’t have to reclear TSA security to transit between any of the terminals.

  31. HenryES says:

    It’s more of a second tier city, but I’d like to put in a shoutout for Columbus, OH (CMH). I travel here for work frequently, and the security lines move well, with the most pleasant TSA agents I’ve encountered. Free WiFi works well enough to watch Netflix on an iPad, and they have outlets at the seats at the gates. Also, the rentals are in a garage attached to the terminal, so no shuttle bus hassles. Food is a little limited, but the US Airways terminal has a branch of Columbus Brewing Co, with awesome beers, and decent food.

  32. giax says:

    ORD and JFK are the two main reasons why I prefer to change my flights at DFW when ever it’s possible.

  33. majortom1981 says:

    I guess the jetblue terminal must be the odd place out at jfk. They have wifi and everytime i have had to fly out of jfk with jetblue it has been great.

  34. z4ce says:

    I’d like to nominate DFW. Even though its a nice, clean airport I avoid it more than any other airport. Why? Because if there is a thunderstorm anywhere within 50 miles, they shut it down. And when is there NOT a thunderstorm within 50 miles of Dallas?