Last updated: 01:00 AM ET, Mon November 21 2016

TravelPulse 100 Best US Airports: The Worst of the Best

Airlines & Airports Rich Thomaselli November 21, 2016

TravelPulse 100 Best US Airports: The Worst of the Best

Somebody had to bring up the rear.

In seeking the best 100 airports in the U.S., it inevitably means that many of these facilities will be the best in a more dubious manner -- the worst of the best.

And we won't kill you with suspense. 

While there always seems to be some debate and discussion over what is the best airport, the worst airport has won a consensus.  According to our readers, the TravelPulse staff members and aviation expert,"worst" is the airport that virtually every observer believes is the worst in the country.


We’re a bit mystified at this one since, from an aesthetic standpoint, this is actually a very nice medium-sized airport with the architecture in the terminal reflecting a Southwestern style. But for many travelers, looks are way down on the list. Albuquerque did not fare well in the TravelPulse survey in amenities, business friendliness, family friendliness or airport volume.

What hurts many small- and medium-sized airports is the lack of choice in food or shopping in the terminal, and the ‘only game in town’ perception, not to mention the smaller volume of flights and airlines available. Three years ago, Albuquerque was also rated as one of the most expensive for fares because of that very reason.


Miami, of course, did well in the survey for airline volume and having numerous choices. The ‘international’ tag on airports can be dubious sometimes but not in Miami, which is truly a global airport. What did this facility in was its ease of access, modernity and terminal comfort – or lack thereof – and a tepid response to business friendliness.

“Miami still charges for Wi-Fi, which to me is ridiculous,” one respondent wrote.  Said another: “Miami is one of the stalest, uncomfortable airports around.” But ease of access was the biggest detriment and it’s no wonder why. The city of Miami is the seventh-biggest metropolitan area in the United States. Yet it is never more than 20 miles wide at any given point.

Think about it – the city is hemmed in by the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Florida Everglades to the west. There are at-grade railroad crossings on the Airport Expressway (Florida SR 112) that can add 15 minutes of travel time to your commute, not to mention the sometimes hour-long wait to check in.


There was an interesting disparity between the rankings from TravelPulse staff and experts, and readers, regarding the survey used to determine this list. Staff and experts liked Ontario because it wasn’t Los Angeles International, with the crowds and the traffic.

Readers didn’t like Ontario because it wasn’t LAX, with the choice of airlines and numerous flight options. Ontario didn't get a single negative rating from staff and experts.

“Ontario remains an underrated hub for its size,” said one. But Ontario received a negative mark across the board from readers in all seven of our categories, and that was enough to drag down its overall ranking. However, later this month, local officials will take over the direction of the airport from Los Angeles World Airports in the hopes of redeveloping land at the airport.

The money generated there will help offset the landing fee costs and — they hope — entice airlines to return and expand flights, according to the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.


As expected from another airport with the dubious ‘only game in town’ distinction, Fargo fared well for ease of access but not well enough in airline volume. Only four airlines – Allegiant, American, Delta and United – serve Hector International, going to just nine cities (Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orlando-Sanford, Phoenix-Mesa and Tampa-St. Petersburg). For all other major cities, a connecting flight is needed.


Volume is the culprit here. While Memphis remains one of the world’s largest cargo airport, thanks to being in the same hometown headquarters as FedEx, the facility has had a dramatic restructuring in the last five years.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Memphis International lost 66 percent of its flights between 2011 and 2015 thanks to Delta shutting down a hub there and other airlines cutting back on flights.


Let’s reserve judgment about this one for a couple of years. Yes, it’s old, dated and can be tough to get to. Coincidentally, TravelPulse survey-takers gave negative points to New Orleans for terminal comfort, modernity and ease of access.

But New Orleans is investing a whopping $650 million into its new North Terminal, currently under construction and due to open in October 2018. British Airways just began nonstop flights between London and The Big Easy as well.


The Iowa-based airport received low points for terminal comfort and business friendliness, the latter of which seems strange since Des Moines is the state capital and one would think sees its fair share of business discussions.


Another tough one to decipher given that Long Beach traditionally has been well-received for its usually lower fares than at Los Angeles International and the fact that it’s a bit easier to get to. The bulk of the airport’s negative points comes in survey assessments of its modernity and terminal comfort. While some people like the idea of boarding a plan via a portable staircase outside on the tarmac, it doesn’t quite fit into the whole idea of a ‘modern’ airport amenity.


Honestly, we are not quite understanding the dislike for this airport. It has a convenient location right off the New York State Thruway and is small enough to navigate the terminal. But Albany nonetheless scored low in ease of access. It is served by JetBlue, United, Delta, American and Southwest, yet also scored low in airport volume, not to mention family friendliness, across the board from readers and staff/experts alike.


Here it is, the airport referenced two years ago by Vice-President Joe Biden as arriving in a third-world country, a sentiment echoed by President-elect Donald Trump at one of the debates earlier this year.

"If I took you and blindfolded you and took you to LaGuardia Airport in New York, you'd think, 'I must be in some third-world country,’” Biden said. "It's embarrassing, and it's stupid. It's stupid." It’s the worst airport in the U.S., according to TravelPulse’s rankings – and many others.

LaGuardia was once considered cutting edge, but a failure to keep up with even the most basic amenities lends credence to Biden and Trump’s statements. “LaGuardia is dated and unclean,” said one respondent to the TravelPulse survey. “Here’s hoping $4 billion will make it workable,” added another, referring to the current renovation of the airport.

So what happened to LGA? Let us count the ways.

* LGA opened in 1939. It was probably due for an upgrade and renovation in 1969. Or ’79. Or ’89. Or…. well, you get the picture.

* New York City traffic is legendarily notorious. The airport was difficult to get to in 1939, let alone today – especially with the construction going on.

* The layout can be confusing, at best.

* The amenities and food options, for a major airline serving more than 27 million passengers a year, are depressingly bad.

* The design of the airport is built for 10 million to 12 million passengers, not more than double that. That leaves seating space in the terminals, charging stations, plugs, and even restroom space woefully inadequate.

* Security lines border on ridiculously slow, flirting with maddeningly long.

* LGA is the worst airport in the country for flight delays, with only 73 percent of flights taking off or landing on time, according to the Department of Transportation.

* Shockingly, in New York of all places – home of the public transit system – there is no subway linking LGA to downtown Manhattan.

* Sitting on the edge of Flushing Bay, the weather can sometimes wreak havoc at the airport.

It all adds up to what is the worst airport experience in the United States.