Pretty much every airport in the country has been referred to as “the worst” by at least one traveler who had a not-so-great experience there—like getting food poisoning at the food court, missing a connection, or spending the night hunched over a pleather sofa due to a canceled flight. However, there are a handful of airports in the U.S. that appear to routinely disappoint travelers more often than not.
The J.D. Power North America Airport Satisfaction Study is an annual look into traveler satisfaction that rates each airport on a 1,000-point scale based on six key factors (in order of importance): Terminal facilities, airport arrival/departure, baggage claim, security check, check-in/baggage check, and food, beverage, and retail offerings. The latest survey, which was released in September 2021, only involves large airports that accommodate 10-32.9 million passengers per year, and mega airports that serve over 33 million passengers per year. You might be surprised to find which popular airports made the list!
Keep reading to see the worst airports in America, according to data. And next, don’t miss The 10 Best U.S. Cities Every Traveler Should See.
While Miami airport, just 27 miles away, was ranked the top mega airport in the country in J.D. Power’s 2021 study, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood tied with the 8th lowest score of all airports with a satisfaction score of 793 out of 1,000.
Many Yelp reviewers complain of “very dated” facilities and airport upkeep. “This is the dirtiest airport I’ve ever been in,” wrote one, adding that all five bathrooms they used were filthy and weren’t properly equipped with soap and toilet paper. “Throughout the airport, there are ceiling tiles that are moved and not put back,” they added.
Denver, another mega airport, tied with Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood with the eighth-lowest score: 793. Per data supplied to Best Life by USAFacts.com, there were 4,310 delayed flights at DIA in January 2022, the most of any airport in the country.
Another big complaint travelers seem to have is the infrastructure of the airport failing to support the volume of travelers, resulting in long tram rides or walks through the airport and confusion getting around. “This airport is in need of a major upgrade. I have never been so confused in an airport and I travel often,” wrote one Yelp user.
Los Angeles International Airport, known to locals as LAX, scored a paltry 792 out of 1,000, tying for the seventh-worst airport. The mega-sized airport also experienced 2,379 flights in January 2022, per USAFacts.com. Yelp users complain about everything from the ongoing construction and the quality of customer service to the design of the airport and traffic.
“It’s such a badly designed airport! First of all, the terminals are not intuitive. Then, the traffic is terrible! Getting in and out of this airport is crazy. For example, it can easily take you an hour to go a few miles to the airport or out of the airport,” wrote a Yelp reviewer.
Newark airport, serving the New York City metropolitan region, is tied with LAX as the seventh lowest-scoring large or mega-sized airport in the country, according to J.D. Power’s data.
One recent reviewer complained about the efficiency of TSA, long lines, a lack of signage around the airport, and overall upkeep. ” I walked into the terminal at the wrong level. The correct levels aren’t marked on any sign—they are on a little flashing board above the entrance doors—way too late to make any sort of decision on where to drop off,” they wrote. “Shouldn’t have been a big deal but all of the escalators and elevators were out of order (as were all of the moving sidewalks further into the terminal).”
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Seattle-Tacoma Airport, referred to as SeaTac, might be the largest airport in the state of Washington, but it doesn’t score high, per J.D. Power. It tallied up just 789 points. It also experienced a lot (2,675) of delayed flights in January 2022, per USAFacts.com.
A lot of the Yelp complaints center around transportation. “One of the BIGGEST issues about this airport is getting from the public transportation (LINK LIGHT) to the terminals,” wrote one. Others complained about unclear signs and a shortage of baggage carousels.
If you are traveling to Washington DC, you might want to fly into Ronald Reagan Washington National (804) or Washington Dulles (802) instead of Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport. The large-sized airport scored just 785 out of 1,000. Some Yelp reviewers complain that the airport is “dated,” while others claim it is home to the “rudest TSA workers in the country.”
The sports teams of Boston might have lots of locals cheering them on, but the city’s main airport, Boston Logan, isn’t a fan favorite. The mega-sized airport scored just 784–the fourth-lowest of all airports and second-worst of all mega airports. While many reviewers applaud the recent updating of the airport, transportation to and from the city is a huge complaint. “Just getting to the airport is like trying to navigate a maze,” wrote one Yelp reviewer.
Another added: “The taxi and Uber/lyft experience used to be highly efficient. Now expect a walking tour of the airport for 20+ minutes to get to the obscene and obscure central pickup.”
Flying to New York City? You might want to look for a flight at JFK instead of LaGuardia. The Queens, New York-based airport was the second-lowest scoring large airport and third overall with a 781 score. LaGuardia also experienced 2,598 delayed flights at the start of 2022, per USAFacts.org—the sixth-worst in the country.
Travelers complain that the airport has gotten too big for its britches in terms of volume. “Congested airport with lots of people. Needs to be updated and the size increased or at the very least allow people to spread out more so we’re not on top of each other at the gates. Not great to say the least,” wrote one.
Another complained that despite a recent renovation, the airport is still “a maze” and inefficient, especially the TSA. “Be sure to give 2 hrs just to wait on TSA.”
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O’Hare, the largest airport serving the Chicago metro area, is not faring too well, per the J.D. Power survey. It was the worst-rated mega airport in the country with a 772 score.
USAFacts.com reports that ORD was the second-worst airport in the country in terms of delayed flights in January 2022, with a whopping 3,784 cases.
Long lines, a dated terminal, too many flights sharing every baggage carousel, and unclear signage are just a few of the complaints littering Yelp. “When I was a kid I thought that Chicago O’Hare was the PINNACLE of forward innovation and just absolute futuristic design. Trouble is… well, it hasn’t changed much since then and that was 30 years ago,” wrote one user.
Philadelphia might be the City of Brotherly Love, but there isn’t much affection for the city’s main airport. It ranked as the worst large airport in the country and the lowest scoring of all, with a score of 758 out of 1,000. Traveler complaints include long TSA lines, subpar food offerings, and the cleanliness of the airport.
One Yelp review reads: “Absolutely awful. Not sure where to begin. Feels like an airport from 1990. Old, dated and filthy. They do have bottle filler stations by the bathrooms but the water tastes like it was drained from a pool.”
“This is by far the dirtiest airport,” another Yelp user said. “I travel a lot and I know stuff gets beat up and gross but then it’s cleaned up during slow or downtimes. But this never happens here, it is so filthy.”
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