Almost every modern traveler has plenty of airport horror stories, including hours-long security lines, inexplicable delays, and $15 sandwiches that look like they’ve been through a war zone. Everyone has an airport they swear is the worst, but which one really is the worst? Keep reading to find out!
It’s amazing that something as awe-inspiring as flying through the air with ease in a machine that weighs several tons can become such a hassle, but such is the way of modern aviation. Air travel is full of frustrating experiences, including rebookings, endless TSA lines, and even the hassle of trying to get to the airport before you even get a whiff of your gate.
Determining which airports are good and which ones are bad is a surprisingly important question. Not only do travel writers work on this question to better advise their readers, but so do powerful businesses such as the survey company J.D. Power, which runs an annual North America Airport Satisfaction Study.
There are plenty of factors one can use to determine the worst airport, from customer reviews to delay statistics and wait times. This list uses a combination of several factors to find out, once and for all, what are the worst airports in the United States.
15. Yeager Airport, Charleston
Yeager Airport in Charleston, West Virginia, often flies under the radar of the worst airports in the country because it is so small. However, Frommer’s named it one of their worst airports of 2022.
Many airports fall on the naughty list because of relatively superficial criteria, such as ugly facilities and poor dining options. Yeager Airport is one of the worst airports in the country in terms of a much more serious factor—safety. The airport sits in the mountains in an area prone to mudslides and where it is all too easy for planes to overshoot the runway.
In fact, Yeager Airport has been host to rare fatal crashes before such as the 2017 cargo plane crash that killed both crew members. Pilots flying in here need extra skill, and passengers need nerves of steel.
14. San Francisco International Airport
If you’re hoping to get to your destination on time, you probably shouldn’t fly through San Francisco International Airport. One of California’s biggest airports is also one of the nation’s worst in terms of delays. A whopping 22.76% of flights going out of San Francisco are delayed by at least 15 minutes.
To be fair, a lot of the delays are outside of the airport’s control. San Francisco’s infamous fog may attract tourists, but it makes it harder to leave because planes cannot take off when visibility is bad.
However, other factors are within the airport’s control, such as the quality of its facilities. Customers reported no place comfortable to wait if flights were delayed or canceled and decaying, even leaking, terminals.
13. Washington Dulles International Airport
Our nation’s capital certainly deserves a better airport than Washington Dulles. The airport routinely scores low on customer satisfaction surveys.
The biggest difficulty with this airport is getting to your destination. Whether you’re trying to get to Dulles International Airport from the city, which has no convenient public transit links, or just trying to get to your gate using the confusing airport transit system, you’re probably going to spend a lot of time lost.
Ideally, you wouldn’t have to spend a lot of time in this bad airport, but unfortunately, many customers report ridiculous wait times, particularly in the poorly organized international arrivals area. At least Dulles is not the worst airport in the Washington area, although it’s unclear how much of a consolation that is.
12. Seattle-Tacoma Airport
Seattle-Tacoma Airport may be the largest airport in the Pacific Northwest, but not by choice. Judging by the routinely low satisfaction scores on JD Power’s survey, most people fly out of this airport because they have no choice, not because they actually like it.
As with Dulles, the major problem with Sea-Tac seems to be transportation. Passengers report trouble connecting to public transportation links with Seattle and even getting around the airport itself. Not only are actual transit links poor, but signage within the airport is also confusing.
To add insult to injury, once you find your gate, you’re not guaranteed to make it to your destination due to frequent flight delays and cancellations. During the 2021 holiday season, Sea-Tac was the worst airport in the United States in terms of delays.
11. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
It’s a good thing that the design of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is so sleek and beautiful because if you’re flying through here, chances are you’ll spend a lot of time in the airport. That’s because DFW airport is one of the worst in the country in terms of wait times and flight delays.
During the first year of the pandemic, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport was the worst in the nation in terms of delayed flights. As restrictions eased and more people started traveling again, wait times at the airport skyrocketed. Staffing shortages and a sudden influx in traffic due to American Airlines rearranging its hubs made the problem even worse.
Even without long wait times, passengers are unhappy with the customer experience at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport due to aging facilities and not enough amenities including basic things such as seating and Wi-Fi.
10. Denver International Airport
Denver International Airport is certainly one of the strangest airports in the country due to its inexplicable choices in public artwork, particularly the demonic-looking horse statue dubbed Blucifer. However, passengers have more reasons for disliking Denver’s airport than bad artwork.
If you’re scared of flying, transiting through Denver is probably not a good idea due to the frequency of turbulence. The airport is located in the mountains, which means you can expect some shaking during takeoff and landing.
Even when you’re on the ground, the traveling experience is not much smoother. Over 20% of flights are delayed, and the busy airport doesn’t have the infrastructure to cope with more passengers.
9. Cleveland Hopkins International Airport
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport routinely ranks as one of the worst mid-sized airports in the country. You know it’s bad when the airport has to celebrate being second-to-last instead of last in JD Power rankings.
Many of the problems passengers reported related to getting around the airport, whose head-scratching layout meant taking the shuttle felt longer than the actual flights.
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport also suffers from boring, outdated facilities that make flying feel like a trip back in time—but not in a good way.
8. Fort Lauderdale International Airport
While nearby Miami International Airport routinely comes in first in customer satisfaction surveys, Fort Lauderdale is the family failure of the Florida airport network.
There are a few reasons why this airport leaves so many passengers disgruntled. The frequent delays, affecting a whopping 21.34% of flights, don’t help. While most of the worst airports in the US in terms of delays can at least use bad weather as an excuse, Fort Lauderdale’s delays are usually the cause of its poor organization.
Passengers might not mind the wait if they could do so in a nice terminal, but Fort Lauderdale is dirty, poorly equipped, and outdated. Any airport that has frequent photos of pigeons roaming its halls is not going to rank highly.
7. Los Angeles International Airport
Any airport that moves as many travelers as Los Angeles International Airport needs to run like a well-oiled machine to make sure everyone gets to where they need to go on time. Unfortunately, LAX frequently runs like a rusty robot.
The worst part about LAX is getting there and leaving. The infamous Los Angeles traffic snarls around the airport grow even worse the closer you get to the terminal, meaning that getting your luggage out of your trunk can take hours. Recent construction doesn’t help matters.
Once you arrive at the airport, getting around isn’t any easier. There are no intuitive connections between the nine sprawling terminals, and connecting passengers sometimes have to go through security twice.
6. Baltimore/Washington International Airport
Washington-based passengers flying out of Dulles can at least comfort themselves that it could be worse—they could be flying out of Baltimore/Washington International Airport. BWI is a frequent flyer on the lists of the worst airports in the nation.
U.S. News ranked BWI as one of the worst airports in the country to get stuck in during a layover. Facilities are few and far between, particularly for dining. You’d better pack a sandwich and hope that the TSA doesn’t confiscate it if you think you’ll be stuck here for a while.
If you are flying through BWI, be ready to spend a lot of time here as wait times are disproportionately long for an airport that is moderately busy at best. The airport also has some of the lowest customer service rankings in the nation, so beware of any stray oversized liquids lest you test the wrath of your TSA agent.
5. Boston Logan Airport
There’s something about the Northeastern United States that seems to concentrate on bad airports in the region. Boston Logan Airport is consistently one of the worst airports in the nation in terms of customer satisfaction.
To be fair, most of the delayed flights out of Logan are beyond the airport’s control as Boston frequently gets walloped with nor’easters. However, 22.45% of flights experiencing delays is no small number.
Customer dissatisfaction at Boston Logan goes far beyond high standards. Boston Logan has some of the most reported civil rights violations by TSA officers and was even the subject of an ACLU Report about alleged racial profiling.
4. Chicago O’Hare International Airport
Everything seems to be bigger at Chicago O’Hare—the airport itself, the passenger numbers, and the things to complain about. In 2021, O’Hare was the worst “mega” airport in the JD Power survey.
The biggest reasons behind customer dissatisfaction are the frequent delays, which are not always the airport’s fault due to Chicago’s extreme weather.
However, some factors are within the airport’s control, such as long wait times within security and customs lines. The trouble is that airport authorities have not made many renovations since the time decades ago when Chicago was the most modern airport in the world.
3. LaGuardia Airport
It’s really a shame that such an important city as New York has an airport that is—LaGuardia. LaGuardia Airport frequently ranks as one of the worst in the country.
One of the biggest problems is that the airport just doesn’t have the capacity to deal with how many people are using it. Flights are frequently delayed, and people report overcrowding at terminals as well as difficulty getting to and leaving the airport. However, these problems have been going on for years, and new construction has only made them worse.
LaGuardia is aware of its reputation and has poured billions into renovations. However, in many terminals, the renovations were superficial at best. At least LaGuardia is not the worst airport in the New York area.
2. Philadelphia International Airport
In the 2021 JD Power North American Airport Satisfaction Survey, poor Philadelphia International Airport ranked dead last among large airports. Customers cited access, frequent delays, and long wait times as frequent points of pain.
To be fair, not all the delays are the airport’s fault as ongoing construction on the I-95 corridor makes getting to the airport a hassle. However, the airport also has the habit of poorly scheduling flights, causing long waits and stampedes on check-in counters.
Customers are also unhappy with the poor facilities and shabby look of the terminals.
1. Newark Liberty International Airport
One of the few good things that passengers can say about Newark Liberty International Airport is that it is consistent—consistently among the worst airports in America no matter the year, survey taker, or criteria.
Do you like delayed flights? Newark has the most in the country with a whopping 28.26%. How about waiting in line at TSA? Some studies show that Newark is the worst in the country in terms of security wait times. Even little things such as properly marking things with signs, having pleasant amenities, regularly cleaning bathrooms, or even having functioning escalators are beyond Newark.
The Port Authority is promising improvements, but after years of horrible experiences flying in and out of Newark, passengers aren’t holding their breath.