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The Best And Worst U.S. Airports Of 2019

by SharonKurheg

2019 is quickly coming to an end and if you’re reading this, chances are you’re already making your travel plans for 2020.

Some people base their plans on what airports they’ll go in and out of; not only in terms of destinations but also for stopovers. Not that you can always choose, but if your choices are six of one and half a dozen of the other and one airport is significantly better than the other, then why not?

Just in time to help you with your 2020 travel plans, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently ranked the best and worst U.S. Airports of 2019. This is the second year they’ve done such a ranking and this is the first year they’ve included scores for moderate-sized airports alongside large ones.

The WSJ ranked the airports based on five measures in each category of:

  • operations (i.e. on-time arrivals, TSA wait, etc.)
  • value (i.e. average cost of flights, restaurants, etc.)
  • convenience (this included a grade from over 2,500 WSJ subscribers who answered a questionnaire about what they like & dislike at airports they’ve visited in the past 2 years)

The 5 Best Large U.S. Airports

  1. Phoenix (PHS) (#3 in 2018)
  2. Denver (DEN) (#1 in 2018)
  3. Fort Lauderdale (FLL) (tie with Detroit)
  4. Detroit Metro (DTW) (tie with Fort Lauderdale)
  5. Orlando (MCO) (#2 in 2018)

The 5 Worst Large U.S. Airports

  1. Newark (EWR)
  2. New York JFK (JFK)
  3. Philadelphia (PHL)
  4. Miami (MIA)
  5. Chicago O’Hare (ORD)

Phoenix, which bills itself as America’s friendliest airport, had excellent scores for short waits at TSA, good scores on Yelp for several of its restaurants, not taking too long to taxi before takeoff, and inexpensive Uber prices to get to Downtown Phoenix.

“It’s wonderful to see the Airport being recognized for its focus on customer service, reliability, and convenience on a national platform,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said in a press release. “This is a solid testament to both our airport employees and the hundreds of volunteer Navigators who donate their time at Sky Harbor.”

The 5 Best Mid-Sized U.S. Airports

  1. Tampa (TPA)
  2. Portland (PDX)
  3. Austin (AUS)
  4. Nashville (BNA)
  5. Sacramento (SMF)

The 5 Worst Mid-Sized U.S. Airports

  1. New York LaGuardia (LGA)
  2. Chicago Midway (MDW)
  3. Washington Dulles (IAD)
  4. New Orleans (MSY) (this survey was completed before the new MSY opened)
  5. St. Louis (STL)

Tampa has put a lot of thought and care into its airport. It has a great design that stops you from having to walk a mile to get to your gate. It’s clean. It has a nice variety of restaurants. It also has some systems in place to help avoid congestion at check-in, which is always nice.

Is it no surprise that Newark and JFK ranked as the two worst large airports and LaGuardia scored as the worst mid-sized one in the country? AirHelp said the exact same thing in May, 2019. JFK is in the midst of a HUGE renovation that’s making it a royal pain to negotiate. So is LaGuardia. And Newark, well, Newark is just a hot mess. It’s old. Its upgrade is taking forever. And as of this past summer, they have the slowest TSA waits in the country. There’s no redeeming factor to EWR, unless you live nearby and it’s close (hand raised – I lived a half-hour from EWR for almost 25 years).

“We know we have a very, very long way to go,” says Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority of NY & NJ, the body that governs over both airports (and LGA). “With new facilities and a renewed emphasis on customer and passenger experience, we can move from the back of the pack to first class.”

Click here for more in-depth details about WSJ’s 2019 survey.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


SO_CAL_RETAIL_SLUT November 22, 2019 - 8:22 pm

LAX should have been added to the list – with the continuing problem with traffic snarls to/from the terminals, and the most recent implementation of “LAExit” to the mix – it’s been a nightmare! Nice to see MCO on the list – great airport! As far JFK, my little secret weapon is flying transcon on Alaska from LAX into the underutilized Terminal 7 – very quiet at the times of day I’m utilizing that terminal, and the Alaska Lounge is a nice respite before departure.
Throwing a bone out to EWR – ever since the Air Train station opened at EWR, it certainly is much easier to catch a NJ Transit train from Penn Station than ever before – fairly hassle free as far as I’m concerned getting to EWR from midtown.


Boraxo November 23, 2019 - 5:33 pm

I like ORD, and MIA is not the worst I’ve seen. FLL is not great the food is awful. Unfortunately the criteria are more academic and not based on actual usage. SFO definitely belongs on Top 5 as does OAK. They have stellar food, good transit and parking options and you can clear security very quickly. Maybe typical east coast media bias.


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