Going on vacation is one of life’s great joys, and air travel is a modern marvel that can get travelers to their destination. But before we board the plane, we all must deal with the indignities of the airport and some airports are far worse than others.
Nearly 3 million people fly into and out of U.S. airports every day, according to the Federal Aviation Authority. There are 5,082 public airports in the U.S. and 5,400 airplanes over U.S. airspace at peak times. The air travel system is vast and complex, and getting travelers through the airport, onto the airplane, and safely to their destination requires many workers at different levels and many processes functioning properly. (These are the busiest airports in the world.)
While paying customers understand the complexities of air travel and are mostly familiar with the different required procedures, they also have a reasonable expectation that going through the airport will be at the very least a neutral experience rather than an aggravating one. In an ideal world, we would show up to the airport, check in our bags with minimal frustration, get through security without a lengthy wait, board the plane without too much of a hassle, and take off without too many delays. Similarly, we would expect the same when we land.
At America’s best airports, travelers not only get all of the above, but some creature comforts are thrown in, too. Dining options are good and plentiful. There are plenty of places to sit and conveniently-placed chargers. The terminals are modern and thoughtfully-designed with passenger comfort in mind. At America’s worst airports, all of that goes out the window. (Also see, these are the best and worst airlines for getting to your destination on time.)
To determine the worst airports in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed J.D. Power’s 2022 North America Airport Satisfaction Study, which scored U.S. and Canadian airports by air travelers satisfaction, grouping airports into three categories: mega, large, and medium. The airports listed here are those that scored below the average in their respective size category. The 10 worst mega, nine worst large, and seven worst medium U.S. airports are listed here, ranked by customer satisfaction score (out of 1,000).
J.D. Power’s study measured terminal facilities; airport arrival/departure; baggage claim; security check; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and retail. Mega airports are defined as those with 33 million or more passengers per year; large airports handle 10 million to 32.9 million annual passengers; and medium airports 4.5 million to 9.9 million annual passengers.
According to the study, overall customer satisfaction declined in 2022 after reaching an all-time high in 2021, when air travel was still a fraction of pre-pandemic volumes. With volumes back to 91% of pre-pandemic norms and staff shortages causing delays and cancellations, customer satisfaction declined 25 points (on a 1,000-point scale) in 2022 compared to 2021.
From interminable security wait times to lengthy delays, these are the worst airports in America. If you happen to find yourself flying into or out of any of these, prepare yourself.
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