There are bad airports. Then there are those airports that are so ridiculously bad, some people will do anything to avoid them, no matter how convoluted it makes their travel schedule. So many things can make or break an airport experience, from accessibility and parking to security delays, cleanliness and retail availability. There are a number of websites and surveys that rank airports. Rather than reinvent the wheel here, we’ve taken a look at about a half-dozen rankings from the past five years to find the airports that always rank near the bottom in customer satisfaction. These are the airports frequent fliers love to hate.
5. O’Hare International Airport
It’s ironic that a new O’Hare runway that opened to help improve the airport’s on-time performance has made many local residents irate; the Chicago Department of Aviation said that the airport received almost 5 million noise complaints from residents in 2016, almost 20 times the annual amount before the runway opened. Among frequent fliers, O’Hare generally rates poorly in terms of security lines and its terminals and overall facilities. And it’s notorious for its flight delays in the summer months when afternoon storms roll through the area.
4. Philadelphia International Airport
Philadelphia International Airport does many things well, including easy access from the city, decent retail/restaurant space and free (and fast!) WiFi. But as we mentioned earlier, so many intangibles go into passenger satisfaction at airports. Security lines are a real problem here, and once at the gates, passengers grow livid looking for charging stations or outlets for their electronics.
3. John F. Kennedy International Airport
It’s not surprising that three of the most despised airports in the U.S. are aging, high-traffic facilities in the New York City area. JFK annually ranks near the bottom of U.S. airports in on-time performance, and passengers who end up stuck there must deal with few retail/restaurant options, very limited seating, and surly staff. And there are lines everywhere, from security to customs. Granted, one should expect lines at a busy airport and JFK is annually in the top five or so busiest U.S. airports, handling 27.7 million passenger boardings in 2015. But Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the busiest U.S. airport, had 49.3 million boardings in 2015, and yet it annually rates very well in consumer satisfaction surveys.
2. Newark Liberty International Airport
It may seem unfair to blame an airport for its location, but Newark really is difficult to reach. And once there, many fliers probably wish they hadn’t made it. Newark’s facilities are dated and the retail/food options are limited. It is also annually one of the worst airports for on-time performance.
1. LaGuardia Airport
This is what you’d expect of an airport originally built during the Great Depression that is now one of the 20 busiest airports in the U.S. (29.8 million passengers in 2016). LaGuardia earns low marks for … well, everything. Vice President Joe Biden even joined the haters in 2014 when he likened LaGuardia to “a Third World country.” Better days are ahead for this much-maligned airport. In 2016, a public/private partnership broke ground on a $4 billion redevelopment project that will improve access and create a huge new central terminal. Unfortunately, in the short term that construction will make things even more difficult for fliers.