Date: October 15, 2014
North America has a wide range in terms of the quality of its airports – and during the winters, travellers tend to spend a bit more time in airports than they perhaps anticipate. Extreme weather patterns – including snow storms, tornados and hurricanes – too often derail departures and lead into the ‘ripple effect’ of mass delays and flight cancellations. Frazzled travellers stranded in airports as they try to reach warmer climates become a familiar sight.
As we enter into this blessed season, this continental Top 10 list becomes especially important when making bookings since these are the places you almost want to be stuck! Not only do they offer up each of our four C’s (comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service) but they go above and beyond in terms of amenities, extravagances and plain-old-niceties. While some winners are consistent classics, we’re excited to introduce a few new finalists into this list.
Here are the Top 10 Best Airports in North America based on overall airport experience as determined by voters in our 2014 Airport Survey:
1. Vancouver International Airport, Canada (YVR)
This was the first time I actually enjoyed an airport layover! Great food options at YVR. The aquarium and art was cool. There were a lot of empty gates and quiet corners for me to rest until my next flight. – a traveller
Beautiful, comfortable, clean and friendly – we’re not surprised to see Vancouver as the top-voted airport in North America again this year. Art exhibits, an aquarium, self-guided tours, great food options, rest zones, and ample aboriginal cultural influences make this airport an interesting airport to be stuck for awhile. Couple that with a few pay lounges complete with resting rooms and showers, and a spa and gym at the adjoining Fairmont Hotel, and you’re looking at a pretty comfortable layover! What more – luggage storage and a super-convenient public transit system make the heart of Vancouver accessible to travellers with extensive layovers.
Airport Services/Facilities To Enjoy Your Layover: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free Wi-Fi • Rest & Relaxation Zones • Napping Rooms ($) • Hydration Stations • Showers ($) • Hotel connected to the airport ($) • Aquarium • 24 Hour Food Options ($) • Luggage Storage ($) • Self Guided Tours. Visit our Vancouver Airport Guide for more information.
2. San Francisco International Airport, USA (SFO)
Lots of interesting things to do, great food, free Wi-Fi, easy to get into the city if you want. – a traveller
Perhaps its something about the west coast attitude, but 1500 kilometers down the coast from YVR is SFO – the continent’s second best airport. This terminal was also voted so highly because it is consistently clean, friendly, convenient and entertaining. Like YVR, you will find an aquarium, plenty of art, showers, luggage storage and self-guided tours throughout the four terminals. Additionally, the airport offers a yoga studio, reading and reflection rooms, an aviation museum and – best of all – a ‘wag brigade’ of puppies trained to de-stress travellers. This year the airport introduced #Converge@flySFO in Terminal 3, a space dedicated to travellers who want to connect, stay productive, and be inspired. Travellers appreciate the variety of activities, the free Wi-Fi, the easy connections into the city and the generally pleasant staff. The only draw back is that some people complain the terminal gets quite cold so – bring a sweater!
Airport Services/Facilities To Enjoy Your Layover: Free Wi-Fi • Aquarium • Aviation Museum • Hydration Stations • Luggage Storage ($) • Showers ($) • Reading & Reflection Rooms • Yoga Studio. Visit our San Francisco Airport Guide for more information.
3. Tampa International Airport, USA (TPA)
Just beautiful! So convenient and clean! Free and fast Internet is a plus. Always stress-free to fly in and out of Tampa! – a traveller
Tampa International is a favourite airport in the American south, given that it is clean, modern, and a breeze to navigate. The airport is consistently reviewed for having quick and efficient security systems, keeping queues throughout to a minimum. Voters were particularly delighted about the fast free Wi-Fi, helping to make a visit here a stress-free experience! A few other perks to the airport include the permanent art exhibits, a business center, children’s play areas and a hotel connected to the terminals. The downside to TPA is that restaurant options are somewhat limited.
Airport Services/Facilities To Enjoy Your Layover: Free Wi-Fi • Hotel located inside the airport ($). Visit our Tampa Airport Guide for more information.
4. Portland International Airport, USA (PDX)
Portland is a clean airport with endless rows of armless benches where you can lay out completely. – bagochips
Like the city in which it is located, Portland is a growing favourite in American airports. Comfortable, clean, convenient and friendly, one reviewer went so far as to say that “if I had to live in an airport, this would be the one”. Benefits of the airport include free, fast Wi-Fi, good food options, a children’s play area, free filtered water bottle filling stations, and plenty of power outlets – all of which are located in a very manageably-sized airport. PDX happens to be one of the few airports that remains almost entirely carpeted, which acts as a mixed blessing for airport travellers. While it is lovely that you can’t hear baggage clunking around, the persistent vacuum cleaning can be a bit disruptive to your sleep. Thankfully the airport is otherwise quite quiet at night so napping is still possible.
Airport Services/Facilities To Enjoy Your Layover: Free Wi-Fi • Luggage Storage ($) • Hydration Stations. Visit our Portland Airport Guide for more information.
5. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, USA (DTW)
I think it was wonderful. At landside the whole area is carpet. No one bugged me all night with the exception of a cleaner who gave me a blanket. – a traveller
Moving east across the continent we land at: Detroit Metropolitan. As a hub for Delta Airlines, the airport is a popular place for connections and winter storms, which isn’t often a winning combination. Thankfully, DTW is quite skilled with anticipating and managing delays. In addition to a number of efficient snow-clearing strategies, the airport offers up a variety of pleasant services for layover passengers. This includes the $15 “Westin Workout” pass that gives access to the hotel’s health club, pool and showers, a full service spa, countless retail shops and free mini-makeovers at the Estee Lauder Beauty Boutique. The newer McNamara terminal (built 2002) is certainly the most modern terminal, and is connected to the rest of the airport through a futuristic light tunnel. There is also a pretty remarkable water feature in Concourse A, which was designed by the same people that designed the Bellagio fountain show in Las Vegas. Overall, many voters described the airport as “new and clean” with plenty of seats, albeit with armrests.
Airport Services/Facilities To Enjoy Your Layover: Free Wi-Fi • Free Mobile Charging. Visit our Detroit Airport Guide for more information.
6. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, USA (DFW)
About 15 people were camped out in the area, and sometime in the middle of the night a worker came around and gave each of us a blanket and pillow. – a traveller
In line with classic Texan style, DFW is an absolute behemoth of an airport. Walkways and good signage help move passengers through the countless shops and restaurants, towards their departure gates. Furthermore, marked off walking paths with optional staircases add and a new yoga studio add some activity to a layover. Keep an eye out as you wander the terminals for the oversized leather armchairs throughout the airport as these are excellent places to relax. The Club at DFW is open to all travellers for a reasonable fee. More comfortable still – for the sleepers willing to pay – are the new Minute Suites, which can be rented hourly. These soundproof suites provide weary guests with a TV, a bed and access to showers! Best of all – when storms hit, this is one airport that consistently provides stranded travellers with cots, pillows, blankets, toiletries and even diapers for stranded babies.
Airport Services/Facilities To Enjoy Your Layover: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free Wi-Fi • Sleep Pods ($) • Hotel located inside the Airport ($) • Free Mobile Charging Stations • 24 Hour Food Options ($) • Showers ($) • Yoga Studio • Walking Path. Visit our Dallas-Fort Worth Airport Guide for more information.
7. Minneapolis – St. Paul International Airport, USA (MSP)
The janitor asked if I was looking for the sleeping area and then directed me to it, as well as to a nearby balcony containing foam mats, blankets, and pillows! Amazing! – herbert
Given that Minneapolis, Minnesota is too often subject to some intense winter storms, it is lucky that MSP is as pleasant as it is for delayed passengers. Along with a good variety of restaurants and shops, the airport has incorporated a few thoughtful touches to aid with a prolonged stay. The 1.4-mile walking path that tours the perimeter is welcomed by exercise-buffs, while new mothers are particularly appreciative of the lactation rooms. Arcades and complimentary iPads are popular with younger travellers, while children’s play areas keep kids (and parents) happy. Aside from that, the cubby holes in the bathrooms and the armrest-less chairs in Concourse D make travelling just that much easier. All that is missing is unlimited free Wi-Fi!
Airport Services/Facilities To Enjoy Your Layover: Free Wi-Fi • Business Centers ($) • 24 Hour Food Options ($) • Luggage Storage ($) • Free Mobile Charging Stations • Quiet Seating Area • Showers ($) • Walking Path. Visit our Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport Guide for more information.
8. Toronto Pearson International, Canada (YYZ)
There are plenty of armless benches to be found, as well as some padded benches and sofa-like things. – amubakar
Canada’s Toronto Pearson is another consistent member of our Top 10 list – though this year, it fell a few points seemingly due to voters that were tired of traversing this massive airport without better shuttle options. Bag-laden schleps aside, the airport still has a number of things going for it. It has plenty of restaurants and an ever-expanding network of shops. Wi-Fi is free, and iPads are provided for passengers at the gates. Generally there are also a number of comfortable benches along with quiet places where you can catch a nap. Goodlife also opened a gym in Terminal 1 this past year, providing an extra bonus to fitness-minded travellers.
Airport Services/Facilities To Enjoy Your Layover: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free Wi-Fi • 24 Hour Food Options ($) • Hotel connected to the Airport ($) • Gym ($) • Showers ($) • Luggage Storage ($) • Quiet Seating Area. Visit our Toronto Pearson Airport Guide for more information.
9. Orlando International Airport, USA (MCO)
Best sleeping options were the padded black chairs at the recharge stations. TVs were kept on all night and were initially loud until one kind housekeeper nixed the volume on the unit in my area. – dayost
A new addition to this year’s top 10 list, Orlando was voted in because it is clean, efficient, and pleasant. It is a wonderful place for sleeping, given that there are plenty of long benches, quiet corners and dim lighting. It is especially convenient that most of the charging stations are set up right beside the comfortable sleep areas. Actual activities don’t reach far beyond the standard amenities.
Airport Services/Facilities To Enjoy Your Layover: Free Wi-Fi • Free Mobile Charging Stations • Hotel located inside the Airport ($). Visit our Orlando Airport Guide for more information.
10. Indianapolis International Airport, USA (IND)
The security officer there was the nicest I’ve ever experienced at an airport. She didn’t judge me in the least for sleeping at the airport, and offered helpful tips about where to go that would be the most comfortable and quiet. – a traveller
As another newbie on our list, Indianapolis rounds out the 2014 Top 10 Best Airports in North America list. It’s simple layout, clean environment and pleasant staff make layovers and delays particularly pleasant – and its small size keeps it easy to navigate. The terminal offers up free Wi-Fi and the restaurant variety is both good and reasonably priced. Travellers appreciate that the airport takes on such a minimalist design, keeping all spaces airy and open yet still organized. Amenities and activities beyond a meditation room are limited, but the airport makes up for it with their courteous staff and quiet atmosphere.
Airport Services/Facilities To Enjoy Your Layover: Free Wi-Fi. Visit our Indianapolis Airport Guide for more information.
Having read about the Best Airports in North America, it now is likely fitting to continue on to the Worst Airports in North America “winners”!