Airports From Hell: Ranking America’s Best and Worst Airports

As Americans prepare for the great holiday air migration, The Daily Beast crunches the latest numbers to again determine the best—and work—airports in the country.

With the recent rollout of more full-body scans—man-sized X-ray machines have been installed at 68 airports for Thanksgiving week—and frontal pat-downs now approved, trips to the airport suddenly got yet more unpleasant. And that’s before factoring in lousy food, 30-plane lineups, and byzantine airport layouts.

So for the second year in a row, just in time for the holiday travel season, The Daily Beast ranks the 27 biggest airports in America to find out which offer a pleasant experience—and which resemble a trip to Hades.

These airports were ranked in seven categories, with weighting as noted below. We used expanded holiday travel data, the only major change from last year’s methodology. Once again, the most important thing an airport can do to score high on this list is ensure that travelers get in and out quickly.

• On-time departures (25 percent) and arrivals (25 percent), using Bureau of Transportation Statistics data, were the two largest components. Because an on-schedule flight is usually a good flight.

• To find out how these airports perform during crunch time, we averaged the most recent on-time performance for Thanksgiving travel, Presidents’ Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and winter holiday, courtesy of BTS data, weighted at 10 percent.

• We also used a weighting of 10 percent for the average security wait time from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with data from Flight Explorer.

• Ten percent was allotted to flights sitting on the tarmac for more than three hours; a ratio was calculated on a per-flight basis. The data, from 2009 and 2010 (and 2008 and 2007 when recent numbers were unavailable), also came through the BTS.

• Incidents and accidents made up a critical 10 percent. Most—though by far not all—accidents are not attributable to the airport in question. This was measured on a per-flight basis.

Gallery: Ranking the Biggest American Airports, From First to Worst

• The final 10 percent, amenities, measured how good an experience an airport visit can be. For this, we used the JD Power and Associates 2009 North American Airport Satisfaction study, which asked flyers to rank airports based on: airport accessibility; baggage claim; the check-in and baggage check process; terminal facilities; security check; and food and retail services.

Clive Irving: 45 Minutes of Chaos in the SkyLike last year’s rankings, airports in temperate climates tended to fare better than their counterparts (with one notable exception). And there was some significant rearrangement at the top of the list, and some movement at the bottom, too. Does your holiday travel include a stopover at an airport from hell? Click here.