The Best & Worst Airports In The U.S. For Layovers

by SharonKurheg

Unless you’re lucky enough to only have to go to cities that have direct flights from where you are, chances are good you’re going to have a layover. It may only be an hour, or it may be until the next day (in which case you may want to know about what to do if you’re stuck at an airport overnight). Either way, there are some airports that are just better for layovers than others.

FinanceBuzz is a website that helps its users “make moves” regarding their personal finance choices and specifically assists with areas like credit cards, investing, loans, banking, debt help, etc. With so many of their readers flying again, and with that, being stuck on layovers, they wanted to see which of the busiest airports in the U.S. provided the best and worst experiences for passengers during layovers. They looked at factors such as airport size, the availability of lounges and food, flight delay and cancellation frequency, etc.

They used the 50 busiest airports in the country and took into consideration:

  • Number of gates: Bigger isn’t always better. If you have to walk through 3 buildings, there’s no shuttle, monorail, etc., and only have an hour, it just makes for more stress.
  • Availability of restaurants and shops: Variety, hours of availability, etc. Especially in the age of Covid, where some places still aren’t open.
  • Number of airport lounges: This website can help a LOT.
  • Number of hotels within walking distance: Perfect if you’re stuck there overnight.
  • Percentage of flights delayed 60+ minutes: Some airports are more notorious for delays than others. But be careful – sometimes flights can become “undelayed.”
  • Percentage of flights canceled: If delays are bad, cancellations are much, much worse.

Their methodology & sources:


For this analysis, FinanceBuzz looked at the 50 U.S. airports with the highest passenger volume in 2020 according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. For each airport, we gathered data points for six different factors related to layovers. The data was then put into a dynamic formula that assigned a 0-5 score to each airport for every factor, with scores being relative to all other airports in our evaluation. Individual factor scores were then weighted and added together to get a final score on a 0-100 scale. For this particular analysis, all factors were given a uniform weight of 3.33.

Factors, data points, and sources are as follows:

  • Number of gates score: Total number of airport departure gates in active service at each airport. (Source: Official websites of each airport)
  • Restaurant and shop availability score: The number of active gates divided by the number of restaurants and shops open to the public at each airport. (Source: Official websites of each airport)
  • Lounge availability score: The total number of airport lounges operating at each airport, regardless of accessibility restrictions. (Source: LoungeBuddy)
  • Nearby hotel availability score: The number of hotels located within two miles of each airport (Source: Yelp)
  • Lengthy delay score: The percentage of flights at each airport that were delayed by a minimum of 60 minutes during the time period covering June 2020 to June 2021(Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics)
  • Flight cancellation score: The percentage of flights at each airport that were canceled during the time period covering June 2020 to June 2021 (Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics)

All data collected between September 15-22, 2021

5 Best U.S. Airports For Layovers

1. Miami International Airport (MIA) – overall score of 66.5 out of 100
2. San Antonio International Airport (SAT) – 66.4/100
3. San Diego International Airport (SAN) – 65.1
4. John Wayne Airport (SNA) – 64.0
5. William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) – 63.9

5 Worst U.S. Airports For Layovers

1. O’Hare International Airport (ORD) – overall score of 23.0 out of 100
2. Dulles International Airport (IAD) – 34.1/100
3. Kansas City International Airport (MCI) – 34.9
4. Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) – 35.2
5. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) – 36.0

Buzzfeed posted 15 of the “best” and “worst” and also included the number of gates, how many restaurants or shops there were per gate, the number of lounge, the percent of flights with 60+ minute delays and the percent of flights canceled. You can go to this page of their website to see the full list.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


derek October 21, 2021 - 7:20 pm

Pardon my French but this list, created by FinanceBuzz, not YMMV, is crap. If I have a layover, I prefer the facilities at SFO, SEA, and MSP. Among the bad list, ORD is not bad. Among the best, SAT is crap. SAT has 2 concourses so the experience is a bit different. SAT is very boring, few places to eat, bad plane spotting from the terminal. Furthermore, there are not that many alternative flights with SAT.

Tim Jacobi October 21, 2021 - 7:55 pm

I wish these EXPERTS at FinanceBuzz applied common sense to their study. Nobody, absolutely nobody has a layover in San Antonio. Except for Aunt Sally who flies from Corpus Christi to El Paso on WN for Thanksgiving.

DaninMCI October 21, 2021 - 9:37 pm

Buzzfeed? What’s next Chris Elliott references?

SharonKurheg October 21, 2021 - 9:42 pm

Darn, has he done something travel-related and we missed it??? 😉

stogieguy7 October 22, 2021 - 11:42 am

This list is absolute garbage! MIA isn’t the best anything; it’s among the worst. You have to walk for miles, deal with tons of (AA-patented rolling) delays. Not to mention that they have the rudest staff anywhere. I actively avoid it, having had the displeasure of being stuck there many times. ORD, on the other hand, isn’t that bad. It’s not the best, but it isn’t that bad. EWR is so delay prone that it’s another that belongs on the worst list. And MDW is another that doesn’t. Both ORD and MDW are very good airports if you are based near them, btw.

Best airport for a layover? I might name IAH, DFW, SLC and DEN (though DEN isn’t good to originate from because of horrible security lines).

SharonKurheg October 22, 2021 - 11:43 am

That’s why our blog is called Your Mileage May Vary – some people may agree 100% with what the survey found. You didn’t. It’s all good 🙂

JohnB October 22, 2021 - 2:10 pm

DTW is actually one of favorite airports. SkyClubs are very nice and I don’t pay for them. ORD is okay. MIA is a terrible airport. This isn’t a good list.

Boraxo October 23, 2021 - 6:32 pm

Derek +1. Absolute nonsense. MIA is spread out and concessions are poor. Hobby is about 10x worse than IAH. And at least ORD has hotel on site and very close. SAN is not that special.


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