Date: October 17, 2015
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 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 list of the Worst Airports in North America is something you definitely want to pay attention to! Decrepit and dated with ultra-long queues, the terminals voted onto this list are in desperate need of a coat of paint, a good scrub and a ton more signs. And, we suppose a few more restaurants, some comfortable chairs and some friendly smiles wouldn’t hurt anyone either! If you have to be travelling through many of these delay-prone destinations, be sure to bring a few comforts and snacks from home to help you protect your wallet’s contents as you pass the time.
Here are the Top 10 Worst Airports in North America based on overall airport experience as determined by voters in our 2015 Airport Survey:
1. New York City LaGuardia International Airport, USA (LGA)
They have several flights leaving out of one gate within five minute time frames. The gate was so crowded I had to sit on the floor for an hour because all the seats were taken. – a traveller
Again and again, New York’s LaGuardia tops our list of most loathed airports in North America. Questionable cleanliness, uncomfortable chairs and limited restaurant variety only begins to cover the complaints filed this time around. The terminals seem to grow more decrepit each year, with numerous voters noting the leaky ceilings, torn carpet and the spots of mould. Long queues manned by unfriendly staff further irritate those spending time here, and the crowds that vie for seating airside don’t help anyone’s moods either. That said, amidst the misery, a few saving graces exist. The first is that it is located extremely close the Manhattan. The second? You can now get 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi. And the third? A $4 BILLION dollar rehabilitation plan was just announced to improve the facilities! Though we’re sure renovations will make things rough, we suspect the long-term future for LaGuardia looks a little bit rosy.
Airport Facilities/Services: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • 30 minutes Free WiFi. For more information, visit our New York City LaGuardia Airport Guide.
Photo Courtesy of joleary__ on Instagram
2. New Orleans Louis Armstrong International Airport, USA (MSY)
MSY is dirty, falling apart, signage is complicated and confusing. I thought that I had gone back to one of the third world countries I work in. – a traveller
Apparently as dirty as it is confusing, New Orleans International Airport is in dire need of more signs, more snacks and a scrub. It might also consider toning down the noisy air-conditioning, which leaves passengers irritated and cold in this otherwise pleasant climate. Food choices are also in apparent need of expansion, given that passengers are almost entirely limited to formal sit-down options or Dunkin Donuts when searching for a meal. That all said, there is some good news. First, there is free Wi-Fi. And second, for those spending considerable time here, there are a few couches tucked away behind colourful walls near the United gates which make for some excellent relaxation.
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi • Luggage Storage ($). For more information, visit our New Orleans Airport Guide.
Photo courtesy of bigmama_superstar on Instagram
3. Los Angeles International Airport, USA (LAX)
LAX is a portal to hell. I pay hundreds of extra dollars to AVOID this layover. – a traveller
A handful of voters this year unofficially awarded LAX with the title of “Worst Airport in the World”. Though our broader base of voters disagrees, there is a general consensus that Los Angeles is confusing and particularly uncomfortable. Food options and washrooms are remarkably limited given the high volume of travellers passing through daily, and staff do little to make for a more enjoyable experience. Voters practically beg the airport to introduce basic features like better signage and 24-hour restaurant options, and they dream that one day the terminal will bring in a few indulgent amenities like showers and more than 45 minutes of free Wi-Fi. That said, some improvements have been made. In terminals 1, 2, 3 and 6 of the Tom Bradley International Terminal, there are concessions near the gates of delayed flights that stay open late. And, the duty free shops here apparently offer a liberal amount of free samples. Best of all? The LAX PUPS Program! PUPS stands for “Pets Unstressing Passengers” and we’d certainly love to run into them!
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi. For more information, visit our LAX Airport Guide.
Photo courtesy of gigglesssss on Instagram
4. Chicago Midway International Airport, USA (MDW)
The airport is very filthy. If you stand on line to go through security be prepared to be standing on line for over an hour. – a traveller
Chicago Midway lures passengers in with its easy subway connections to the centre of the Windy City. However, once you’re there, the airport begins to sing a different tune. With no pay-per-use lounges and hardly any shops or restaurants, time spent here can be dull at a minimum. Traveller boredom is made worse by unclean surroundings and some seriously slow security lines. That all said, if you find yourself needing to sleep here overnight, you’re in for a treat. A few travellers this year regaled us with tales of wonder about the traveller assistance program. As they tucked themselves into a quiet carpeted corner of the terminal, they were approached by security guards who graciously directed them to Concourse A, where pillows, cots, blankets and fellow sleepers awaited! Safe, secure and comfortable, this magical area is most definitely a redeeming feature.
Airport Services/Facilities: WiFi ($) • 24-Hour Food Options ($). For more information, visit our Chicago Midway Airport Guide.
Photo courtesy of jessicaleejanes on Instagram
5. Newark Liberty International Airport, USA (EWR)
Overcrowded, long lines, people pushing you to get ahead in lines…overall, not that organized – a traveller
Reports of dirty restrooms, broken trains and escalators, narrow security lines and not especially friendly staff combine at Newark Airport to win it fifth place on our list of worst airports in North America. In spite of the high number of delay-causing winter storms here, 24-hour restaurant options are particularly scarce – as are comfortable benches and quiet corners. Wi-Fi, though technically available, is reported to often be broken and power outlets are difficult to find before security. Though the restaurant options in Newark may be marginally better than those in La Guardia, its distance from Manhattan hardly makes it a marked improvement for getting into NYC.
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • WiFi ($) • 24-Hour Food Options. For more information, visit our Newark Airport Guide.
Photo courtesy of athegeby on Instagram
6. Miami International Airport, USA (MIA)
First, the airport is freezing cold, I bring socks, heavy sweaters, scarves. Second, the seating is terrible for resting (no bench style seats that I have ever found). – a traveller
In spite of being located in the sunshine state, Miami International Airport is surprisingly cold and uncomfortable. Good signage is remarkably absent from these terminals as well – a disaster given that nothing seems to be logically laid out. Too often, passengers are found walking a minimum of a mile between sprawling terminals in hopes of navigating complicated and lengthy layover processes. Other grievances here revolve around the lack of free Wi-Fi, the fragrant restrooms, the lack of 24-hour restaurants and the abundance of armrests. The benefit to spending time here? You might just run into the local therapy dogs who wander the terminals in hopes of providing happiness to worn out travellers.
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • WiFi ($) • 24-Hour Food Options ($) • Luggage Storage ($). For more information, visit our Miami Airport Guide.
Photo courtesy of williej_davis on Instagram
7. Honolulu International Airport, USA (HNL)
Add to that the outdated design, inability to easily make connections and 1960’s creepy light fixtures in the passenger lounges you feel like your aloha spirit has been suck out of you each visit. – a traveller
If visiting Hawaii, you will probably fly via Honolulu – an airport in definite need of a modernizing facelift. Generally dated and a little uncomfortable, HNL could benefit from opening a few more shops and restaurants, and operating those that do exist with more liberal hours. Survey respondents felt like the seats could do with a bit more cushion and less armrests, given that one of the best places for sleeping is a long wooden bench. At the moment, there is also no free Wi-Fi, though we do hear rumours of this changing. The good news? Staff here are pleasantly cheery, there is a nice garden and, if you have a longer layover, you can easily make it to Waikiki Beach and back again.
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • WiFi ($) • 24-Hour Food Options ($). For more information, visit our Honolulu Airport Guide.
8. Philadelphia International Airport, USA (PHL)
Getting through the security line is a joke – it takes forever and the people managing the lines just scream at you. – a traveller
A little tired and generally confusing to navigate, Philadelphia International Airport is ready for some love. Adding features like charging points, more chairs and more landside amenities would take PHL a long way – as would a good solid hose down. Life is definitely better after the lengthy security lines, where you’ll find more 24-hour restaurants and shops, some more comfortable sitting areas and a virtual library. For airport sleepers, it’s particularly worth your while to get over to Terminal F, where you might just find cots, blankets and pillows! That, or you can spend the money saved on Wi-Fi on some of the Minute Suite sleep pods.
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi ($) • Sleep Pods ($) • Library. For more information, visit our Philadelphia Airport Guide.
Photo courtesy of shomdog13 on Instagram
9. New York City John F. Kennedy International Airport, USA (JFK)
I was in transit here overnight between London and Colombia. I was shocked at the state of this airport in the so called developed world! It would not pass muster in Europe! – a traveller
In spite of being one of the world’s most coveted cities, all three of New York’s airports have appeared – yet again – on our worst airports in North America list. JFK Airport, more aptly described as a gargantuan labyrinth, leaves many travellers utterly confused about where to go, and the customer service and limited signs does little to abate their bewilderment. As travellers do manage to navigate the terminals, they quickly find themselves amidst the throws of a massive security line that will likely keep them on their feet for a while. And, when they finally make it through, comfortable chairs to relax in are in notoriously short supply. Couple all this with unclean facilities, only 30 minutes free Wi-Fi and pricey restaurants, and you’ve got yourself a bleak third choice for accessing the Big Apple.
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • 30 minutes Free WiFi • Luggage Storage ($) • Showers ($). For more information, visit our New York City JFK Airport Guide.
10. Chicago O’Hare International Airport, USA (ORD)
Whenever I come into this airport, and I have changed planes there countless times, there’s always a delay, the crowds are huge, the restaurants are swamped, and there isn’t enough seating. – a traveller
O’Hare is yet another American airport in desperate need of updating – particularly given the tremendous number of weather related delays that happen here. Some voters imaginatively described the terminals as a madhouse and an elementary school cafeteria. Others were more explicit, saying that 24-hour food options are scarce and budget food options are scarcer. The overall layout is illogical and seating is generally uncomfortable. While the neon tunnel was definitely cool in the late ‘80s, today it serves as a reminder of just how dated these terminals are. The good news about Chicago is that like in Midway, the Passenger Assistance Program provides free cots, a pillow, a blanket and toiletries for those with an “unplanned” extended stay here. That, and the airport provides free Wi-Fi!
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi • 24-Hour Food Options ($) • Showers ($) • Yoga Room. For more information, visit our Chicago O’Hare Airport Guide.
Photo Courtesy of stacieventimiglia on Instagram
Continue on to read about the Best Airports in North America winners!