America's worst airports

Outdated infrastructure, overcrowding, chronic delays, and demoralized staff: That’s what you’ll find in some of America’s worst airports, according to readers of Travel + Leisure.
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In our first-ever airport survey, we asked readers to rate America’s 22 major airports in seven categories: flight delays; design; amenities; food and drink; check-in and security; service; and transportation and location. The best-scoring airports have tackled these issues head-on, refurbishing terminals and adding amenities that make the worst airports look evermore outdated by comparison.
Readers singled out the lack of play facilities for children at many airports, as well as lackluster spa facilities. Travel can be stressful enough, and based on reader responses, there’s a demand for more drop-in airport spas where you can get a quick neck, back, or foot massage while waiting out that flight delay.
Here, based on overall survey scores, are America’s worst airports.

Worst: No. 1 New York (LGA)

Dilapidated La Guardia hasn’t aged well. The airport has the dubious honor of ranking the worst for the check-in and security process, the worst for baggage handling, the worst when it comes to providing Wi-Fi, the worst at staff communication, and the worst design and cleanliness. If there was a ray of hope, its location, which ranked 16th, was considered superior to six other airports.

No. 2 Los Angeles (LAX)

LAX ranked at the bottom of most categories—that includes location (20th), check-in and security process (21st), impression of safety standards (22nd), baggage handling (20th), staff communication (21st), and terminal cleanliness (21st). Clearly, this worn-out airport is ready for a major Hollywood makeover.

No. 3 Philadelphia (PHL)

Philadelphia’s airport is singled out for a lousy design and lack of cleanliness (20th), surly staff (20th), and long check-in and security lines (20th). The only thing worse is waiting for your bags, ranked 21st in efficiency (make that inefficiency). That its location came in at 13th is not much consolation.

No. 4 New York (JFK)

Ease of getting a taxi may be the best thing to be said about JFK. You will wait—and wait—in check-in and security lines, likely wait again for your luggage, encounter a less-than-helpful staff, and wander in vain looking for a Wi-Fi signal. All of these were ranked 19th by our readers. Even worse is the airport’s location (21st) in relation to the nation’s largest city. Taxi!

No. 5 Newark (EWR)

Ah, Newark. It leads the other two New York-area airports, but that’s not saying much. While readers ranked it 11th for location and convenience, its other scores—16th for staff communication and a string of 18th places for design, cleanliness, baggage handling, and miserable check-in and security lines—are near the bottom of the barrel.

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No. 6 Chicago O’Hare (ORD)

The best feature of O’Hare is its public transportation to and from the airport (with a score of five out of 22). It ranked 17th for design, cleanliness, and location. The overall check-in and security experience came in with a poor showing of 17, while a reputation for snarled flights and stormy winter weather resulted in a ranking of 21 out of 22 for delays.

No. 7 Washington Dulles (IAD)

Flying into the nation’s capital? Well, Dulles is disparaged for its location (19th ranking) and baggage handling (15th). Flying out of Dulles? Expect long lines at check-in and security (15th) and staff who won’t exactly jump to attention (17th). The cleanliness and design of Dulles (15th) won’t lift your spirits either. Our survey suggests it’s worth considering routing your D.C. plans through Baltimore instead. 

No. 8 Boston (BOS)

Logan Airport is far from the cleanest major airport (17th) in the country, according to T+L readers. Nor is the staff known for its rapid response when something goes wrong (rated 18 out of 22 for customer service). You’ll probably wait in check-in and security lines (16th), and when you arrive, factor in extra time to wait for your baggage as well (17th). On the plus side, Logan is lauded for its convenient location (seventh).

No. 9 Houston (IAH)

The best that could be said about Houston is that there’s a reasonably good chance that your flight will take off and not be canceled. The bad news? It has a less-than-desirable location (18th) and lousy Wi-Fi (17th). But remarkably for such a big airport, it had a strong showing in the category of baggage handling (sixth).

No. 10 Atlanta (ATL)

Public transportation to and from the airport was lauded in Atlanta. But a string of solid 14th-ranked scores—for longish waits at check-in and security lines, less than user-friendly Wi-Fi, slow baggage handling, average staff responsiveness, and location—kept it locked in 14th place on our score sheet. The shortage of kid-friendly areas was also an issue, given the vast size of this hub.

No. 11 Dallas Fort Worth (DFW)

Readers singled out DFW’s flight information screens as especially helpful. But they were less enthusiastic about the check-in and security line process, for which the airport ranked eighth. With a middling 12th ranking in several categories—baggage handling, staff responsiveness, airport location, and Wi-Fi—DFW came out as a truly average airport. Not the best, but not the worst. At least it’s pretty clean (eighth).