Oh, airport nightmares! That haunting feeling of being stuck overnight, receiving endless flight delays, or having troubles with baggage claim are just some of the woes travelers face when jetting off. Major airports across America are constantly ranked from the busiest, worst, best food, the best lounges, and best Wi-Fi. While we could rank, list, and compare airport troubles all day, a number on a list is irrelevant when you are having the worst travel day of your life. Especially in the last year, we have seen even more complications in U.S. airports and traveling by air.
Although J.D. Power says that customer satisfaction with airports in North America is at an all-time high, people who are flying every day will most likely tell you otherwise. From airport lounges, TSA security lines, baggage claim efficiency, and dining options, we set out to identify the best and worst in the most-desired categories for overall airport satisfaction across America.
Best & Worst Airport Lounges
No matter the type, length, or reason for travel, being able to retreat to a high-end lounge during a layover for complimentary beverages and food is a huge mood booster. However, if the lounge is not set up properly, paying extra for a "lounge" can be completely unsatisfactory. According to Orbitz, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport have the most members lounges at 13 and 12, respectively. In contrast, Charlotte Douglas International Airport has only two.
Top-ranked airport lounges in the U.S., according to The Points Guy, include the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, the Lufthansa First Class Wining & Dining Lounge, or the Delta SkyClub -- all are located in New York City at John F. Kennedy International (JFK); the Oneworld or Star Alliance Lounges at Los Angeles International (LAX); the flagship United Club at the George Bush Intercontinental in Houston; the Cathay Pacific Lounge at the San Francisco International in California.
Worst-ranked lounges include the Delta Sky Club at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL) at Concourse B, the Terminal 2 United Club at Chicago O'Hare International (ORD), and the American Airlines Admirals Club at Newark Liberty International in New Jersey.
Worst Airports For Cancellations
According to Orbitz, Newark Liberty International has the most flight cancellations at 3.11 percent, with George Bush Intercontinental second at 2.96 percent. JFK, Miami, and Orlando International all also have a cancellation rate of over two percent.
On the other end of the spectrum, the U.S. airports with the least cancellations are Seattle-Tacoma, Denver International (DIA), McCarran International in Las Vegas, and Phoenix Sky Harbor International. While this information won't stop your flight from being canceled, knowing which airports are notorious for canceling flights is good.
Worst Airport Beverage and Food Options
There is nothing worse on a travel day than racing through an airport to make your flight with an empty stomach and absolutely zero food options. Various food and drink options can turn an awful travel day into the best travel day.
As far as the volume of options is concerned, the U.S. airports with the most dining options include JFK, Chicago O'Hare International, Los Angeles International, McCarran International, Dallas/Fort Worth International, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International. Those in the lowest rank are Newark, George Bush, and Seattle-Tacoma.
Airports With the Worst TSA/Security Lines
After you check-in and before you take off, you must go through the dreaded Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security line. This last year, Upgraded Points researched TSA wait times at the 25 busiest airports in America. Use their handy tool to check out the best and worst times to go through security at each major airport.
The best wait times for security lines are Salt Lake City International (SLC), Washington Dulles International, Boston Logan International, Minneapolis-St. Paul International, and a tie for fifth between Charlotte Douglas International (CLT) and Detroit Metropolitan (DTW).
The worst-ranking airports for security-line times are Newark Liberty International, George Bush Intercontinental, Miami International, Baltimore-Washington International, and McCarran International.
North America Airport Satisfaction
Arguably the go-to source for all air-flight rankings, J.D. Power has been classifying airports in the U.S. for decades now. Taking data and statistics such as the facilities, arrival/departure (time flight), baggage claim, security lines, and food/beverage/retail, J.D. Power has found some incredible insights about air travel in 2020. Now, many of these factors have the global pandemic to thank as airlines saw record-low passenger volumes worldwide.
Overall, passengers were more pleased with high levels of cleanliness, less noise, and smaller crowds, making for a better experience in general. Phoenix Sky Harbor International was the highest passenger satisfaction among the "mega airports" (33 million or more passengers/year) in the country, followed by Miami International and McCarran International in third.
Dallas Love Field ranked highest among the "large airports" (10-32.9 million passengers/year), followed by Orange County and then Tampa International. The "medium airports" (4.5-9.9 million passengers/year) came in with Indianapolis International first, Palm Beach International second, and Southwest Florida International third.
Have any airport horror stories? Share your experience with us on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!
Enjoy reading about the open road?
Don't miss a story! Sign up for daily stories delivered to your inbox.