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Best Airports in North America 2015

Date: October 17, 2015

best airportWith hundreds of airports scattered across North America – a good portion of which are burdened by winter weather – travellers often become intimately familiar with the chairs, restaurants and activities in these regional terminals. The best airports in North America are those that keep the stranded passenger just as content as the passenger with the short layover. Clean facilities, comfortable seating and good food help ease the pain of a weather delay, while easy navigation and helpful staff allow others to make their quick connections. To really excel against the competition, the absolute best airports offer thoughtful touches, like local art, pleasant décor, free Wi-Fi, showers, gym access, bookstores and cots!

These are the Top 10 Best Airports in North America based on overall airport experience as determined by voters in our 2015 Airport Survey:

1. Vancouver International Airport, Canada (YVR)

vancouver airport

Very good with design. The colors are very warming (ie. chairs, walls, etc.) and bathrooms are very clean. - a traveller

Ultra-welcoming, thoughtfully designed, extremely comfortable and fantastically friendly, YVR tops our North American charts for another year running. Highlights at Vancouver International Airport include the giant aquarium in the international departures lounge, dozens of art and museum exhibits, plenty of local First Nation's inspiration, self-guided tours and a peasant variety of shops and restaurants. Logistically-speaking, other perks include the unlimited free Wi-Fi, the good signage, the rest zones, the luggage storage and the showers. What's more, all terminals are kept impeccably clean by a team of friendly staff, making time spent here feel, as one voter put it, far less institutional. We couldn't agree more with another voter who described it as a “hell of a welcome to Canada”! Also, did we mention how efficiently the Canada Line gets you into the city centre? Vancouver for the win! See also Best Airports in the World and Best Airports for Sleeping.

Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi • Aquarium • Rest Zones • 24-Hour Food Options ($) • Self-Guided Tour • Showers ($) • Luggage Storage ($). For more information, visit our Vancouver Airport Guide.

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2. Tampa International Airport, USA (TPA)

tampa airport by g_irin on instagram

Logical layout makes for fast comings and goings, excellent local food options, helpful airport staff and constantly refreshed public spaces make this 1971-built landmark one of the best in the world... still! - a traveller

Tampa International Airport is moving up in the world of best airports in North America! Though the airport itself is quite large, the hub-and-spoke design makes your journey from the curb to gate beyond fast and efficient. Other bonuses here include the constant cleanliness, the natural light, the excellent food options, the great views, the permanent art exhibits and the fast free Wi-Fi. Sleep-wise, voters praise the comfortable temperature for sleeping. That said, if you are in need of a real bed, there is a hotel connected directly to the airport. See also Best Airports in the World and Best Airports for Sleeping.

Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi • 24-Hour Food Options ($). For more information, visit our Tampa Airport Guide.

Photo courtesy of g_irin on Instagram

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3. Portland International Airport, USA (PDX)

portland airport

It is extremely clean , bright and cheerful on the inside. I like the fact that it is carpeted which is easier on your feet. - a traveller

In spite of losing its beloved PDX carpet at the beginning of 2015, Portland continues to earn itself points in the hearts of American travellers. Given the terminal's location in one of the nation's hippest cities, it's unsurprising that voters were thrilled by great public transit, fantastic food, free filtered water bottle filling stations, a great bookstore and ever-entertaining people watching. Other more typical amenities here include armrest-less chairs, unlimited free Wi-Fi, loads of power outlets and luggage storage options – all within a very reasonably sized terminal. And of course, as is the case with Oregon more broadly, the Portland staff are noted for being especially welcoming and eager to help! See also Best Airports in the World and Best Airports for Sleeping.

Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi • Luggage Storage ($). For more information, visit our Portland Airport Guide.

Photo Courtesy of Portland International Airport

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4. Minneapolis – St. Paul International Airport, USA (MSP)

minneapolis airport by olivialogelin on instagram

They offered cots and pillows and blankets and refered me to a concourse (D) that dims lighting and turns off announcements at night. I was very impressed! - a traveller

Airports have the ability to show their true colours during North American winter storms. Given that Minneapolis is burdened by more than its fair share of blizzards, it's a special testament to MSP that it is still voted one of the best terminals on the continent. One voter went so far as to say that “if you must sleep at the Minneapolis/St Paul airport, you are in luck!” At MSP, kind and helpful staff often deliver the bad news of a weather delay, sometimes offering cots and pillows to stranded passengers. If however you're not offered a bed, the armrest-less chairs in Concourse D are also rumoured to be a comfortable temporary nest. Beyond sleeping, amenities and activities including a 1.4-mile walking path, massage chairs, showers, lactation rooms, rest zones and Wi-Fi keep travellers content until the storm lifts – and kids are particularly entertained with arcades, complimentary iPads and play zones. See also Best Airports in the World and Best Airports for Sleeping.

Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi • Luggage Storage ($) • Rest Zone • Walking Path • Showers ($). For more information, visit our Minneapolis Airport Guide.

Photo courtesy of olivialogelin on Instagram

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5. San Francisco International Airport, USA (SFO)

san francisco airport

All the restaurants (at least in terminals 2, 3, and int'l) are local businesses and great. - a traveller

SFO dropped a few points this year, seemingly because voters felt this clean and friendly airport lacks the shopping, dining and entertainment options in older areas of the airport's 4 terminals. Some travellers did find a few choice sleeping areas landside above terminal 3 and in the arrivals level of terminal 2; however, most spent their time here trying to artfully wrap limbs around armrests. Other voters found the airport to be large and confusing, leaving them to spend much time wandering around in search of connections. All these negatives aside, SFO still has a lot going for it. The wag brigade of wandering puppies trained to de-stress travellers is by far a unique favourite – and we certainly don't mind the yoga room, showers, reflection rooms and aviation museum either. See also Best Airports in the World and Best Airports for Sleeping.

Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free Wi-Fi • Aquarium • Aviation Museum • Hydration Stations • Luggage Storage ($) • Showers ($) • Reading & Reflection Rooms • Yoga Studio. For more information, visit our San Francisco Airport Guide.

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6. Indianapolis International Airport, USA (IND)

indianapolis airport by ryansmithies on instagram

It's really comfortable and very charming!
- a traveller

Simple, modern, comfortable, clean, organized and surprisingly charming. Though Indianapolis International lacks some of the bells and whistles of other North American airports, it most certainly has its basics covered well. With unlimited free Wi-Fi and plenty of large comfortable couches, it's easy enough to find a quiet-ish corner to relax in – and staff are apparently quite accommodating of those who opt for an overnight. That said, if you are going to be awake for the duration of your layover, prepare to bring a good book. Activities and amenities are essentially limited to a meditation room and a handful of shops and restaurants.

Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi. For more information, visit our Indianapolis Airport Guide.

Photo courtesy of ryansmithies on Instagram

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7. Orlando International Airport, USA (MCO)

orlando airport by adams4peace on instagram

I used to spend entire day sitting in those comfortable green chairs or buying a coffee and staying at the Starbucks entire day in those amazing leather arm chairs - a traveller

Orlando International Airport is back on this best airports list for a second year running thanks to a variety of landside restaurants, pleasant staff and a light, airy design. Sleepers rejoice at the sight of long cushioned benches located conveniently close to outlets, while those with long daytime layovers might spend time at the nearby bowling alley or on an art tour of Terminals A and B. As is the case with travellers worldwide, free and unlimited Wi-Fi has the capacity to keep everyone friendly – particularly when it is as fast as it is at MCO. One final bonus? In addition to a good variety of cheap public transit options connecting the airport to the city centre, there is also a free shuttle bus that takes travellers right to the edge of Disney World! See also Best Airports for Sleeping.

Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi. For more information, visit our Orlando Airport Guide.

Photo courtesy of adams4peace on Instagram

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8. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, USA (DTW)

detroit airport by wtnowak on instagram

Concourse A is a joy. It's open and airy and clean, and I frequently walk one or two laps around it during my long layovers. - a traveller

Detroit Metropolitan is a great airport for those who like their exercise. To move from the Concourse A water feature, designed by those of Bellagio fame, to the modern McNamara terminal, you'll walk a substantial distance through a psychedelic light tunnel. The other concourses, easily navigated by a concourse train, are all light and airy – though A boasts the most in terms of activities and amenities. Given that DTW is notorious for winter storm delays, the airport also earns points for managing stranded passengers. Perks like the $15 “Westin Workout” pass gives travellers access to the hotel's full health club while the airport's snow cleaning staff works efficiently to get plans back on schedule. See also Best Airports for Sleeping.

Airport Services/Facilities: Free Wi-Fi • Free Mobile Charging. For more information, visit our Detroit Airport Guide.

Photo courtesy of wtnowak on Instagram

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9. Denver International Airport, USA (DEN)

denver airport by n_tizzy on Instagram

I wish they had sleep pods or a place to relax in this airport!
- a traveller

Like Detroit, Denver International Airport receives its fair share of winter storm delays. Features like the free Wi-Fi, the wide range of eateries, the friendly staff, clean bathrooms and the art features keep passengers happy for the first few hours. However, as night-time approaches, the terminal boasts little in the way of comforts for the weary traveller. Loads of armrests and cold floors limit a restful night, and the limited number of 24-hour food options provide little in the way of a midnight snack. A tip from the formerly-stranded? Seek out the business area upstairs near the Cantina. Here, you'll find a few corner cubicles with power outlets, perfect for protecting your baggage while you sleep. In the future, we can only hope for sleep pods and a few more benches, but until then DEN has a solid number 9 spot on our list.

Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi • 24-Hour Food Options ($). For more information, visit our Denver Airport Guide.

Photo courtesy of n_tizzy on Instagram

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10. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, USA (PHX)

phoenix airport by dhanu.dass on instagram

Great food options from local restaurants. Very friendly service people to direct you if you get lost. - a traveller

Though the airport itself may be a little dated, loads of local restaurants and a straightforward layout act as redeeming qualities in Phoenix. For the weary, there are a number of good couches on the lower level of Terminal 4. And for the energetic, the mile-long fitness trail will help you burn off some steam. The airport does however lose a few points in the customer service department. Voters felt that the immigration desks were decidedly understaffed. Couple that with a few more seats with accessible power points, and Phoenix ought to move up in the hearts of our voters. See also Best Airports for Sleeping.

Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi • Showers. For more information, visit our Phoenix Airport Guide.

Photo courtesy of dhanu.dass on Instagram

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Top 40 Best Airports in North America

We are often asked how other airports ranked in the survey, so below you will find a list of the Top 40 Best Airports in North America as voted by travellers in our 2015 Airport Survey:

  1. Vancouver International Airport, Canada (YVR)
  2. Tampa International Airport, USA (TPA)
  3. Portland International Airport, USA (PDX)
  4. Minneapolis – St. Paul International Airport, USA (MSP)
  5. San Francisco International Airport, USA (SFO)
  6. Indianapolis International Airport, USA (IND)
  7. Orlando International Airport, USA (MCO)
  8. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, USA (DTW)
  9. Denver International Airport, USA (DEN)
  10. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, USA (PHX)
  11. Charlotte Douglas International Airport, USA (CLT)
  12. Atlanta Hartsfield–Jackson International Airport, USA (ATL)
  13. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, USA (DFW)
  14. Seattle–Tacoma International Airport, USA (SEA)
  15. Victoria International Airport, Canada (YYJ)
  16. Dallas Love Field, USA (DAL)
  17. Buffalo Niagara International Airport, USA (BUF)
  18. Albany International Airport, USA (ALB)
  19. Toronto Pearson International Airport, Canada (YYZ)
  20. Baltimore–Washington International Airport, USA (BWI)
  21. Orange County - John Wayne Airport, USA (SNA)
  22. Halifax Stanfield International Airport, Canada (YHZ)
  23. Sacramento International Airport, USA (SMF)
  24. Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, USA (CVG)
  25. Raleigh–Durham International Airport, USA (RDU)
  26. Calgary International Airport, Canada (YYC)
  27. Oakland International Airport, USA (OAK)
  28. Ottawa International Airport, Canada (YOW)
  29. San Jose International Airport, USA (SJC)
  30. Louisville International Airport, USA (SDF)
  31. Edmonton International Airport, Canada (YEG)
  32. Austin–Bergstrom International Airport, USA (AUS)
  33. Salt Lake City International Airport, USA (SLC)
  34. Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, USA (CLE)
  35. Las Vegas McCarran International Airport, USA (LAS)
  36. Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport, USA (FLL)
  37. Anchorage Ted Stevens International Airport, USA (ANC)
  38. Nashville International Airport, USA (BNA)
  39. Boston Logan International Airport, USA (BOS)
  40. Montréal Trudeau International Airport, Canada (YUL)

Do you agree or disagree with these results? Tell us about your airport experiences by participating in our 2016 Airport Survey!

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Explore more of our survey results:

Best Airports - World Worst Airports - World
Best Airports - for Sleeping Worst Airports - for Sleeping
Best Airports - Africa Worst Airports - Africa
Best Airports - Asia Worst Airports - Asia
Best Airports - Caribbean & Central America Worst Airports - Caribbean & Central America
Best Airports - Europe Worst Airports - Europe
Best Airports - Middle East Worst Airports - Middle East
Best Airports - North America Worst Airports - North America
Best Airports - South America Worst Airports - South America
Best Airports - South Pacific Worst Airports - South Pacific

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