December 13, 2015

December 13, 2015
The Worst Airports in America

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Sunday and I hope you have had a beary safe and great weekend so far. Dab the AIDS Bear is busy on the road speaking at events and doing our holiday parties for children living with HIV until the end of the year. So stay tuned for more new pictures and slide shows soon.

Dab the AIDS Bear and I have been flying around the country (and world) for almost three and a half decades. So we have a ton of experience with the best and worst airports.

Just in time for the Thanksgiving travel rush: Introducing the worst airports in America. Not surprisingly, the largest in the country take a beating, but many are slowly improving as more and more of you transit through them and demand better. The winner? Be prepared to be surprised...

Worst U.S. Airports #10. Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport

New Orleans' airport is something of a tease. All of the best food options are outside security; you'll see a number of great NOLA restaurants represented before TSA, figure things must be just as good inside the terminal, and then wham — nothing. The industrial look and feel doesn't reflect the buzz of the city itself, either. Not much of a welcome mat.

Worst U.S. Airports #9. Memphis International Airport (MEM)

An impressively large airport, due to serving FedEx and its delivery network, non-cargo passengers are left woefully neglected. What could have been a game changer in the South was left in the dust when Delta Air Lines merged with Northwest and abruptly left town in 2008. Routes to nearby Atlanta, Dallas, and Charlotte, N.C. fill departure boards these days, with seasonal flights to Cancun and the Bahamas keeping "international" status afloat. Good food outlets like Corky's BBQ have jumped the shark. What a shame.

Worst U.S. Airports #8. Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)

Twenty-six (very long) miles west of D.C., about 22 million passengers arrive and depart each year from this corner of Virginia. The main terminal, designed by Eero Saarinen in 1958, has held up well. United is the biggest carrier, London is the airport's no. 1 destination, and buses or taxis are lengthy and expensive in turns. (This hub claims to service Baltimore — really?!). At least an extension of the metro opened last year in Reston, leaving travelers with a shorter shuttle ride to the airport. Progress!

Worst U.S. Airports #7. O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

Chicago O'Hare might not land on this list if it wasn't for that lake-effect snow. Our readers are consistently stranded at this airport, facing delays and cancellations due to high traffic and a seemingly endless winter. If the train running from the airport is broken (which happens), a taxi ride to downtown Chicago can take an hour on a good day. You're constantly rushing or stuck, and neither feels particularly good.

Worst U.S. Airports #6. Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)

Philly's close-to-downtown airport is full of incongruities. It continues to be an under-the-radar Northeast gateway with full transcontinental service (and international flights to London, Frankfurt, and Paris), but disappoints due to bad weather delays and overcrowding. Brace yourself for an aroma of re-heated "cheesesteaks" and below-par restrooms, but be thankful for taxis to town for only two twenties, or under $7 on the SEPTA rail link to the center of the City of Brotherly Love.

Worst U.S. Airports #5. Miami International Airport (MIA)

A clearing house for flights to and from Latin America and the Caribbean (with convenient European connections), this particular airport is an experience unto itself. Expect a dizzying array of concourses and mixed food outlets serving more than 40.9 million passengers (in 2014) from London to São Paulo. Thankfully, there's better public transport on the new MIA Mover, a free transfer service connecting Miami Central Station's Tri-Rail and Amtrak lines.

Worst U.S. Airports #4. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

American, Delta, and United all lay claim to LAX as their hub, making this monster (a record 70.7 million passengers trod through here in 2014) something of a major bottleneck with flights arriving and departing from every imaginable corner of the Earth. Earthquakes, riots, and security breaches have shut this place down more than once. Sadly, the Encounter Restaurant in the graceful, central Theme Building closed in late 2013 with little news of a revival (an observation deck remains open on weekends). If you've time, however, hop a quick taxi to the delightfully quirky Flight Path Learning Center & Museum in the old Imperial Terminal. Only in LA!

Worst U.S. Airports #3. John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

Long derided as one of the world's worst designed international airports, some slack should be cut for its storied evolution. Originally Idelwild Airport (opened in 1943, and renamed JFK in 1963), many of the free-standing terminals (a total of six, down from ten) have had world-class architects—Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, I. M. Pei, and Eero Saarinen, to name a few (most famed is the now empty, but still glorious TWA terminal). Getting between each is a big hassle, with more than 53.3 million passengers arriving and departing in 2014 on more than 100 airlines from more than 50 countries. Public transport to the city is a bargain on the AirTrain and MTA Subway at a mere $7.50, but taxi and bus traffic can be like crossing the River Styx.

Worst U.S. Airports #2. Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

Ah, Newark... the first major airport in the country. In 1934 it was the only commercial gateway to serve New York City (throwing Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia into such fits he set forth plans to build his own eponymous gateway in Queens). PEOPLExpress (now defunct) and Virgin Atlantic were both instrumental in reviving the airport after a slump in the 1970s. Now it's a crossroads for what feels like all of humanity, especially during the holidays, with snaking lines at security. (Thirty-five million passengers used the airport last year.) United Airlines, post-Continental merger, is "capo di tutti capi" and making strides to upgrade Terminal 3. Thankfully, ground transport, via monorail transfer to NJTransit and Amtrak, is relatively efficient.

Worst U.S. Airports #1. LaGuardia Airport (LGA)

We're not sure how LaGuardia, surrounded on three of four sides by water, escaped this list of scariest airports to fly into — takeoffs and landings on remarkably short runways in the heart of Queens get the pulse racing. Dedicated in 1939 (the Marine Air Terminal is on the National Register of Historic Places), it now has four semi-modern terminals connected by bus and walkways, but public transport to the city by MTA bus and subway is awkward at best. The newly renovated Delta Air Lines gates and an innovative iPad-based food and beverage pre-ordering system are making a dent in the reputation of this, America's worst (you called it).

Hope you have a beary safe and great Sunday!

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab