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Travel + Leisure Names The Country's Best and Worst Airports

Travel + Leisure has released a list of the nation’s best and worst airports. The rankings were part of the magazine’s World’s Best Awards, an annual survey that allowed readers to vote on the finest ― and crappiest ― cities, accommodations, and transportation services across the globe. Sixty-seven U.S. airports were named in the poll.

First: According to the 2013 survey results, Oregon’s Portland International Airport (PDX) is the best in the domestic biz. T + L readers cited its 87.5-percent on-time departure rate, innovative design, superior shopping options, and high-quality eateries as just some of the reasons why PDX deserved the top spot.

Second: Tampa International Airport (TIA) curried favor with fliers for a different reason: mobility. “With a layout designed for minimum walking, Tampa spoils you for other airports,” one reader told T + L. The airport’s in-house brewery and well-lit interiors were some of the other perks that resonated with readers.

Third: The poll found that Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) in Texas placed first with voters in terms of food offerings, thanks to excellent barbecue options, an in-house, and occasionally some live music. However, AUS ranked third overall largely due to its remote location (which earned 25th place out of 67).

Fourth: On the other hand, T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, R.I. (PVD), earned top honors in terms of accessible location. The airport’s relatively light passenger traffic also contributed to its second-place ranking in the ‘smooth check-in’ category ― something to keep in mind next time you have the choice between PVD and the much busier, more crowded Logan International Airport in Boston as your New England flight destination. However, PVD placed fourth with readers overall, thanks in part to food and shopping amenities that are “nothing to write home about”.

Fifth: Rounding out the top five is Indianapolis Airport (IND), which ranked first in the ‘design category’. “The airport’s soaring roof and walls of glass, completed in 2008, make you feel as if you’re already flying when you arrive,” notes T + L writer Everett Potter. The free Wi-Fi, abundance of charging stations, and plenty of rental car agencies within walking distance of the main terminal also contributed to IND’s fifth-place ranking.

Other airports that earned favorable votes from T + L readers include (in order from the top): Minneapolis-St. paul International Airport (MSP), Boise Airport (BOI), Nashville International (BNA), Wisconsin’s General Mitchell International Airport (MKE), Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT), Orlando International Airport (MCO), Maine’s Portland International Airport (PWM), Alaska’s Ted Stevens International Airport (ANC), Sacramento International Airport (SMF), and Nevada’s McCarran International Aiport (LAS).

Now for the bottom five ― which is probably why you’re here in the first place.

Worst: Placing dead last in the domestic airport survey was Little Rock’s Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport (LIT). According to voters, LIT’s check-in, delays, design, food, and shopping options were so lackluster that even the airport’s free Wi-Fi offerings couldn’t save it from earning the lowest ranking.

Second Worst: Also named for a politician, New York’s LaGuardia International Airport (LGA) was named the country’s second worst. A major reason for the airport’s dismal ranking is its check-in process, voted worst in the U.S. by survey respondents. The shopping, food, and “dilapidated halls” also earned LGA a large amount of negative feedback.

Third Worst: Montana’s Billings-Logan International Airport (BIL), the only airport west of the Mississippi to rank in the bottom five, came in third worst overall. The design is barely passable, delays are common, and visitors are encouraged to leave the airport for decent dining and shopping options. “You’d think that Billings, a gateway to Yellowstone National Park, would have an unremarkable—or even charming—airport,” Potter writes. “Think again.”

Fourth Worst: Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) placed fourth from the bottom due to, among other voter gripes, its inconvenient location, numerous delays, check-in headaches, and “outdated design”. EWR has decent food and shopping amenities, but not decent enough to earn the airport more positive votes.

Fifth Worst: This ‘honor’ goes to Alabama’s Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM), which Potter affectionately dubs a “solidly poor performer” in the survey. Delays, check-in procedures, and the airport’s location all registered as majorly problematic issues with voters, while the food and shopping were just mediocre. But there’s always room for improvement ― and BHM’s new terminal (currently in progress) could elevate its status with readers in next year’s survey.

Other airports that T + L readers booed and hissed at include (in order from the bottom): John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), Kansas City International Airport (MCI), Mississippi’s Jackson-Evers International Airport (JAN), Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), Louis Armstrong New Orleand International Airport (MSY), Miami International Airport (MIA), Des Moines International Airport (DSM), and Lambert-St. Louis (STL).

Tell us about your best/worst experience at a U.S. airport!

Unless otherwise stated, images sourced from Thinkstock Images.


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