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Airports in the United States to avoid if possible:

Passenger check-in lines that are much too crowded and the long distances passengers must walk between gates are the top factors that make airports stressful for travellers, according to a new study by KRC Research on behalf of Concur, a provider of travel and expense management solutions. Another stress factor is whether the airport makes it easy for arriving passengers to make their connecting flights on time.

Worst U.S. Airports for Connections

The majority of travellers do not like hearing that they must make a connecting flight. Flying to a final destination on more than one plane increases the odds of delay that causes a missed connection. Some U.S. airports have more incidences of late or missed connections than others - depending, in part, on which airlines use them and where they’re located. Some airlines have garnered reputations for being unreliable, and some airports are in cities that must regularly contend with bad weather, making them subject to delayed connections more often.

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics ranked the 10 U.S. airports with the worst records for on-time arrivals in 2011, as well as providing data for on-time departures. Its survey covers 29 major airports, defined as serving at least 1 percent of total passengers boarding domestic flights in one calendar year.

The following airports were the worst when it came to making connections in 2011.

airport icon1. Newark Liberty International Airport
When it comes to on-time arrivals, Newark Liberty International Airport has the worst record of any U.S. airport. A whopping one in three flights — 33.28 percent — arrived late. It also has the worst record for on-time departures, with 27.03 percent taking off later than scheduled. According to an August 2011 article on the Consumer Reports website, the two most chronically delayed flights in the U.S. both originate from Newark Liberty International Airport. Both flights go to Atlanta during peak travel hours and both flights have an average delay of one hour and 21 minutes. Both of these flights are delayed between 50 and 60 percent of the time.

airport icon2. San Francisco International Airport
San Francisco International Airport is the second-largest airport in California after Los Angeles International Airport. The terminal is easily accessible from various points in the Bay Area via a mass transit system which includes AirTrain, a completely automated train system connecting the terminals. However, inside the airport, the atmosphere is markedly less pleasant. One is very likely to see at least a few annoyed passengers waiting for delayed flights to land, as these delayed flights account for 28.62 percent of all arrivals. As for departures they don't fare much better with 23.72 percent taking off later than scheduled.

airport icon3. New York LaGuardia Airport
Together with Kennedy International and New Jersey's Newark Liberty International, New York's LaGuardia Airport is part of the largest airport system in the United States, and the second-largest in the world after London. With that volume of traffic at these airports, it’s not surprising there are frequent delays. Accordingly, 27.82 percent of arriving flights landed late and 22.49 percent of departing flights left later than scheduled. LaGuardia was also ranked the worst major airport in the U.S. by the Zagat Survey in 2010, and in January, Frommer’s singled out the airport’s U.S. Airways terminal as being “dull and sad.”

airport icon4. Logan International Airport
Logan International Airport in Boston, the largest airport in New England, had a tremendous year in 2011, when almost 29 million passengers travelled into it and out of it. Unfortunately, a massive 26.35 percent of flights didn’t arrive when they were scheduled for arrival, and 21.11 had irksome takeoff delays.

airport icon5. John F. Kennedy International Airport
Of the flight arrivals at New York’s Kennedy International, 24.66 percent landed there late in 2011, and 22.49 of departures got into the air late. But unreliability is only one of the factors leading some to consider it to be one of the worst. The Frommers.com traveler’s guide book website, included it in its “10 Worst Airport Terminals” feature. It called JFK Terminal 3 “the worst single airport terminal in America,” and cited “an utter lack of food and shopping options, hallways that could have been designed by M.C. Escher and a sense that the cleaning crew gave up in despair a while ago.”

airport icon6. O'Hare International Airport
The Chicago O'Hare International Airport suffers from something of an identity crisis. On the one hand, it was voted “Best Airport in North America” for four consecutive years by Global Traveler Magazine from 2004 to 2007. However, a total of 24.52 percent of flights landing at O'Hare did so behind schedule, and the airport had the third-worst record for flight departures in 2011 at 25.6 percent.

airport icon7. Philadelphia International Airport
Philadelphia International Airport served almost 31 million passengers in 2010, and is the 12th busiest in the world in terms of traffic, according to a 2011 report from the Airports Council International. With that kind of activity, it could be apparent why the airport would encounter a high number of delays. In 2011 these delays affected 23.84 percent of flights arrivals and 21.1 percent of aircraft attempting to get off the ground.

airport icon8. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
The Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington County, Virginia processes fewer passengers than nearby Dulles, with just over 18.8 million people passing through it in 2011, according to the airports authority. But yet, 22.28 percent of flights arriving there did so later than they were scheduled, while 17.59 percent of departures took off late.

airport icon9. Washington Dulles International Airport
Washington Dulles International Airport is in Dulles, Virginia, 25 miles west of the U.S. capital. In 2011, the airport served over 23 million passengers, according to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, but 21.39 percent of the flights arrived later than they were scheduled, making passenger connections needlessly stressful, while 20.19 percent of the flights leaving Dulles experienced delayed departures.

airport icon10. Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport
Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport is in Broward County, Florida, approximately 20 miles north of Miami. According to records, 78.88 percent of flights arriving at the airport landed on time. Which means that passengers on 21.12 percent of the flights that landed there had to make like Usain Bolt and dash through the terminal if they wanted to make their connecting flight. Not a big problem for everyone though, as 19.74 percent of flights departing from the airport didn’t take off on time either.

Most Stressful U.S. Airports

In a study released by the same group ranked the 16 most stressful U.S. airports based on interviews with 1,500 business travelers. The survey also revealed that availability of electrical outlets and Wi-Fi are important factors among serious travellers.

The most stressful U.S. airports according to business travelers:

  • 1 Chicago O'Hare International Airport
  • 2 Los Angeles International Airport
  • 3 John F. Kennedy International Airport
  • 4 Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
  • 5 New York's LaGuardia Airport
  • 6 Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport
  • 7 Newark Liberty International Airport
  • 8 George Bush Houston Intercontinental Airport
  • 9 San Francisco International Airport
  • 10 Miami International Airport
  • 11 Washington Dulles International Airport
  • 12 Charlotte/Douglas International Airport
  • 13 Philadelphia International Airport
  • 14 Orlando International Airport
  • 15 Boston Logan International Airport
  • 16 Las Vegas McCarran International Airport

What causes stress at these airports?

The majority of respondents, at 56 percent, found the vast distance between gates and terminals to be the biggest challenge at Chicago O’Hare, while nearly half, or 49 percent, agreed John F. Kennedy International Airport presents some of the longest lines. On the positive side, business travelers named Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) as the most hassle-free airport thanks to clear its signage, good Wi-Fi coverage and a variety of quality food options.

Other factors that contribute to airport stress included:

  • Confusing airport signs - 28 percent
  • Poor service from airport staff - 28 percent
  • Not enough or crowded bathrooms - 19 percent
  • Poor Wi-Fi coverage - 19 percent
  • Insufficient amount of electrical outlets - 18 percent


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