Each and every day, 2.6 million people fly in and out of U.S. airports, and plenty of them are miserable. A customer satisfaction survey has rated these airports terminally awful. J.D. Power has found that customer satisfaction with American airports is at an all-time high at the moment, the worst ones inspire loads of complaints about long lines, outdated facilities, bad service, and a variety of other problems. Power says that these are America’s worst airports, based on a survey consisting of over 40,000 travelers. The ranking uses scores out of a possible 1,000. If you happen to travel through any of these airports, you will want to make sure you have a travel rewards card that provides access to all those comfortable airport lounges.
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport
Satisfaction score: 769
The main airport in Cleveland features a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gift shop, a restaurant that was launched by homegrown celebrity chef Michael Symon, as well as a shrine to Superman, who was created in Cleveland. Even with all those cool things going on, travelers complain the airport is cramped, dank and long overdue for an upgrade. “The luggage was delayed because the carousel broke down,” a reviewer writes. He adds that the baggage area is stuck in the 1980s. “I have been in many airports and Cleveland airport is by far the oldest and most boring,” he concludes.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Satisfaction score: 769
For over two decades, Atlanta’s biggest airport held the title of the world’s busiest airport. It had almost 200 gates and 63,000 employees serving over 107 million passengers in 2018. A lot of them were unhappy. Some critics say the place is too big and hectic. The main complaints are that making connections is difficult, international travelers have long waits in customs, and that the airport services are oftentimes overwhelmed. “It’s just too busy,” says one Yelper. “There were so many people in here and places were running out of food.”
Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport
Satisfaction score: 769
The far-flung Houston airport (20 miles from downtown) is another huge facility that a lot of people find overwhelming. Despite the fact that it has both a subway and an elevated people mover to carry people between terminals, some people say there’s still too much walking involved when you have to reach a connecting flight. Other people say the signs in the airport aren’t clear enough and don’t help them figure out where they’re going, and a lot complain that there aren’t enough charging stations. “It doesn’t really feel old nor does it feel new. It just feels like a very middle-of-the-road type of airport,” writes one reviewer on Yelp. “A lot of the typical restaurant and airport bar-style haunts. But nothing spectacular.”
William P. Hobby Airport (Houston)
Satisfaction score: 768
The smaller Houston airport has been in the spotlight more over this past year. It experienced a toy grenade that caused a bomb scare and an impromptu dance performance that ended up going viral. Despite all that, Hobby is most famous for hundreds of flight cancellations due to mechanical problems, regular water shut-offs, dirty bathrooms, hardly functioning outlets and horrible customer service. One clearly unhappy traveler made a comparison to Los Angeles’ unloved airport: “It makes LAX look like Disneyland.”
Salt Lake City International Airport
Satisfaction score: 768
Salt Lake City residents are excited that a brand-new airport is being built with an epic art installation that’s set to open in 2020. Until then, however, travelers are forced to endure the city’s old “claustrophobic nightmare”, as one described it. In 1960, terminal 1 was completed, and terminal 2 was built in the late 70s. The most recent upgrades happened in the 80s. The airport hasn’t kept up with growing air traffic and travelers’ needs. On Yelp, reviews have spoken about the “crowded, limited lounges,” “filthy facilities” and the “worst Wi-Fi of any airport from here to Istanbul.”
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
Satisfaction score: 767
While this airport was named among the best in North America by Airports Council International in 2018, travelers strongly disagree. As business grew, the airport added some poorly-connected expansions. Nowadays, the layout has underground crossings, escalators, car traffic, and terribly confusing signage. Yelp reviews report security lines last an hour and a half and customers are herded “like cattle to a meat factory”. Not to mention, there’s an alarming shortage of men’s toilets. Another frequent flier says, “It took me over 45 minutes to walk from security to my gate. Last month, I got food poisoning here. Truly a destination for one’s worst enemy.”
San Jose International Airport
Satisfaction score: 767
This airport is close to Silicon Valley, has direct flights to big cities, and has generally on-time performance. However, recent renovations didn’t fix the terribly sprawling design of the place. The building is pretty much one miles-long hallway. Passengers have to drag their bags the length of the entire thing, squeezing through bottlenecks when several flights arrive at the same time. To top it off, baggage claim is on one end while car rental counters are on the other. Also, the cars themselves are upstairs. Of course, confusing signage only adds to the horrible experience. The airport is “hideous for the elderly,” a traveler reports on AirlineQuality.com. “If you have difficulty walking long distances, avoid it at all costs.”
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
Satisfaction score: 765
This airport has been praised for its timely flights, nursing rooms, animal-relief areas and its commitment to environmental sustainability. However, with ongoing construction, there are areas that have been permanently neglected. Terminals 2 and 3 are all grim and run down. Travelers have said that there are no restaurants or even a coffee counter open past the security checkpoints after 9 p.m. On top of that, travelers complain about broken seats, a low amount of functioning outlets, no Wi-Fi and only two small bathrooms. “If you survive the heatstroke walking from the Skytrain in the 100F + Arizona sun, you’ll get to enjoy all this, plus no air conditioning,” says a horrified Yelp reviewer. “This place is a zoo.”
Chicago Midway International Airport
Satisfaction score: 763
The Chicago Midway airport has been in the process of renovation since 2018, and something has gone terribly wrong. More gates were squeezed in, leading to a lot of crowding, not enough seating, and security lines that spill into the parking lot. The more popular food options were replaced by low-quality chains that have awful service and even worse food. There are plenty of Yelp reviews that complain about the selection of “dry microwaved bread,” “Chicago’s worst pizza” and $15 salads with “scary brown lettuce.” While food elsewhere might not matter as much, this airport’s central location means that there are a lot of layovers, meaning people need food.
San Francisco International Airport
Satisfaction score: 763
Opened in 1954, this busy airport has four terminals, including a modern International Terminal that has a renowned aviation museum and library. However, unlike other terminals’ redesigns, the renovations at Terminal 1 leave something to be desired. Customers have complained that there are only a couple of restaurants, muddled announcements, charging stations that don’t work, and cramped conditions with “200-300 people crammed into the end of the terminal” waiting to get on their flights. One Yelp user says, “Everything about this hellhole screams, ‘You’re never getting out of here.’”
Charlotte Douglas International Airport
Satisfaction score: 761
This airport has earned its title as the world’s seventh busiest in terms of air traffic. This terminal, however, is simply not equipped to deal with this onslaught. Concourse B has been under construction, customers complain of crowds, not enough seating, dirt all over the place, and no clear barriers separating the construction. The project won’t be done until 2020. “It is absolutely gross. Ceiling has exposed wires, cracks and a draft from the outside,” one Yelper says. “The speakers are so crappy that it sounds like the teacher from the ‘Peanuts’ sucked helium and screamed incessantly.”
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
Satisfaction score: 759
The Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, first opened in 1941. The modern terminals that were dedicated in 1997 reflect earlier styles. All this makes the airport an architectural curiosity, but not up to par with today’s travel needs. There are hardly any power outlets, the airport is understaffed, and the glass-wall design makes Terminal A a sweltering greenhouse every afternoon. To top it off, the airport isn’t always wheelchair accessible according to travelers. Those with wheelchairs are typically taken “through shady hidden elevators and down some private corridors to a bus” that takes them right to the terminal, according to a Yelper.
Baltimore Washington International
Satisfaction score: 759
Another airport in the D.C. area, BWI was first enjoyed by people, but it’s since expanded so many times that it’s a sprawling mess now. The car traffic is impossible, rental cars are 20 minutes away, and dragging your luggage through the terminals takes forever. Travelers have said there are also dirty bathrooms, hardly any outlets, and rude airport employees. Why do people keep going there, then? One Yelp reviewer said fares tend to be $80 to $120 cheaper than other airports in the area. “That’s a pretty decent savings right? I say that depends,” he says. “It depends on whether time means anything to you.”
Kahului Airport (Maui, Hawaii)
Satisfaction score: 757
Landing at this open-air airport after a long flight is equivalent to being thrown headfirst into a steam engine along with your luggage. Travelers complain that the tiny 1970s airport has no air conditioning, extremely long lines, plenty of bottlenecks, and very confusing signage. If you want a connection to the outside world, your best option is paid Wi-Fi. That is if you can find it.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
Satisfaction score: 756
There is much to be desired at this small international airport in Seattle. It is much too small to handle the number of travelers it has, meaning long TSA lines, irate customer service people, not enough seating, and plenty of chaos. In an attempt to bring the airport to modern standards, the place is under construction. As you’ve probably guessed, this only adds to the mayhem. If you have a late flight and are hungry, you’re out of luck. The airport largely “shutters its doors after 10 p.m. like a Florida retirement town.” It even has rocking chairs!
Lambert-St. Louis International Airport
Satisfaction score: 753
On a good day, this medium-sized Missouri airport is okay. It has multiple restaurants to choose from, a few stores that are good for picking out gum or a magazine, and it’s connected to downtown St. Louis by light rail. However, the narrow concourses don’t really handle the large volume of flyers, and the security lines don’t either. The service at the restaurants can be slow and only worthwhile if you have hours to wait. Speaking of time, this airport is so spread out that experienced travelers warn others to tack an extra hour onto pre-boarding time.
New York John F. Kennedy International Airport
Satisfaction score: 752
As you’ll quickly see, airports in the New York City area are pretty much disasters. JFK is a huge airport that handles hundreds of thousands of arriving and leaving flights each year. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 1 in 5 of those flights is delayed. Over 59 million passengers use the airport every year, and with that volume, service is low. It can take hours to get through security to the boarding area. One frequent flier sums it up this way: “JFK is always a zoo.”
Washington Dulles International Airport
Satisfaction score: 751
Making a trip into D.C. from distant Dulles can be somewhat of a nightmare. The Washington Metro Silver Line subway extension won’t be done for another year at least, so for now, you have to take a combination of a bus and a subway, a long drive, or an expensive cab. Just like other airports on this list, Dulles outgrew its original space and over time, expanded into a sprawling mess. Getting around can only be done through its “mobile lounges” that resemble monster trucks.
Miami International Airport
Satisfaction score: 750
Miami International is only the way it is due to its close proximity to the Caribbean and the city’s popularity. Always packed, the airport is full of tourists and irritated Floridians trying to get out of the city or get home already. Travelers complain a lot about long walks from security to boarding, confusing signage and horrible service all around. Almost 1 in 5 flights is delayed, which is fine if you enjoy spending time in crushing humidity. One passenger wrote on Yelp he swears he’d “rather schedule a frontal lobotomy than come back to this dive.”
Oakland International Airport
Satisfaction score: 749
This airport seems to be desgined specifically to torture travelers. It has everything from dirty bathrooms and gates littered with trash to limited dining options and angry customer service. No wonder no one’s happy when the best thing you can say about the airport is that you can get out of it quickly. BART subway trains leave every 6 minutes. A local traveler says this on Yelp: “Pray that your flight won’t be canceled and keep this place as a last option.”
Boston Logan International Airport
Satisfaction score: 747
Tourists seem to adore Boston’s pretty parks, fresh seafood and incredible history. That is, if they can manage to get through the airport. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 23% of arrivals and 21% of departures at the airport were delayed in 2018. Visitors complain about the lack of restaurants or cafes. The excessively long wait time at baggage check, the rude slow-moving TSA agents, and the plain ugliness of the place don’t help either. One reviewer says the “dreary interior reminiscent of post WWII Soviet era structures of concrete, no sense of local culture or creativity.”
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport
Satisfaction score: 744
The busy South Florida airport is bad all the way through. The BTS found that 20% of arrivals and 21% of departures were delayed in 2018, as a result there were long wait times and major stress for travelers. This airport also has massive traffic from travelers who are going on cruises, yet terminals have no conveniant way to get to the port. Not to mention, there aren’t enough seats when the time comes to fly home. “This airport is a mess,” one Yelper says. “Very expensive shops and eateries, dirty restrooms that are few and far between, and very long walks between the two terminals.”
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport
Satisfaction score: 743
While 80% of arrivals are on time, delays and cancellations are average, don’t expect great reviews about this airport. It’s a small airport that simply can’t handle the amount of people going in and out. Small bathrooms only have a couple of stalls, there aren’t many food options and long lines are only the beginning. On top of that, there’s the general dirtiness, the phone chargers that don’t actually fit into phones, and the overworked airport staff. “The airport is outdated. It’s a little depressing and needs to be modernized by brightening it up,” a traveler says on Yelp.
Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (Honolulu)
Satisfaction score: 736
While tourism is Hawaii’s bread and butter, the state really dropped the ball when they designed its international airport. While it has excellent scheduling and relatively few cancellations, the airport is a maze. So much so that you might miss your flight. Any attempts to follow the incredibly confusing signage could bring passengers to dead ends and restricted areas. Locals have recommended to arrive very early in order to figure out how to get to your terminal on time. One Yelp review says, “Hey HNL, 1960 called and they want their airport back. What a joke.”
Philadelphia International Airport
Satisfaction score: 736
The Philadelphia airport is known for its disorganization, lack of cleanliness and horrible customer service. “Whether it’s escalators not working, water fountains out of work, confused TSA agents or simply no one around to discuss flight changes, it’s incompetency like I haven’t seen at an airport,” one frequent flyer wrote on Yelp. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics discovered that 21% of arrivals and 20% of departures have been delayed this year so far. Luckily, airlines have agreed to invest $900 million into much-needed improvements for this airport.
Chicago O’Hare International Airport
Satisfaction score: 735
In terms of shopping and dining, the Chicago O’Hare International Airport is great. But for keeping your original travel plans? Not so much. The airport has a record of 20% of incoming flights being delayed, so flyers need to book very long layovers to make their connections. International travelers need to board a train to cross the airport and deal with the less-than-happy staff, extra security, and long lines once they reach the transfer point. “I had given myself four hours between flights and still barely made it to my gate on time,” one reviewer said on AirlineQuality.com, who was connecting from a flight from Dubai. “Unacceptable.”
Los Angeles International Airport
Satisfaction score: 735
While LAX doesn’t get bad weather delays, there’s no escaping the typical L.A. traffic you have to battle when arriving or leaving. Unfortunately, things don’t get easier in the ridiculously long security lines and baggage claim. The long wait for luggage can tack on an hour or more easily when leaving the airport. One Yelper says LAX is “just out of control and chaotic.”
Kansas City International Airport
Satisfaction score: 733
You’d think a smaller airport should find less ways to mess things up, but this airport proves the opposite. Affordable parking is located far away, there aren’t enough spots, so flyers end up having to pay for expensive taxis or valet parking close to the airport. Inside, there are tiny bathrooms, no room to accommodate modern security screenings, and so little seats that people have to sit on the floor or lean against walls. In short, it feels like “an old, dilapidated bus station,” according to a Yelp reviewer.
Newark Liberty International Airport
Satisfaction score: 701
The best thing about this airport is that it has an affordable train ride that connects to New York City. However, that’s the end of the good news. Passengers have said that the terminals aren’t laid out well, food services are bad, and delays are constant. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics says that 22.9% of departing flights and 29.6% of arrivals have been delayed in 2018 – and that’s an improvement. While J.D. Power found another airport that’s worse, one Yelp reviewer said “I have been to many many airports internationally and domestic. One was under a thatched hut on an island with air conditioning. Would rather be there!!”
LaGuardia Airport (New York)
Satisfaction score: 678
It’s no surprise that the New York area has some of the most complex air traffic in the world, with huge amounts of flights and passengers. Unfortunately, LaGuardia isn’t able to handle the pressure. In 2018, the airport had 23% of its arrivals and almost 20% of its departures delayed. The airport is so cramped and disorganized. Not to mention in desparate need of seating, bathroom, retail and restaurant upgrades. Travelers say ongoing construction is not improving the place. “Concourses are narrow and there are very few services like food and shopping,” one Yelper says. “It just feels old, tired and dirty.” On the bright side, visitors who survive this airport will find the New York subway system to be a cakewalk.