best airports

The Big Argument: Best and Worst Airports

Two recent rankings differ in results, based mainly on passenger volume.

Among business travelers, there's no topic more hotly debated than which airports are pleasant and which are awful. Stoking that debate a few weeks back, we reported on The Points Guy's annual ranking of 30 U.S. airports for timeliness, ease of access, and quality of services. In fact, The Points Guy underscored the muddiness of this issue by noting that the top-rated airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor, "arguably won not necessarily by coming in first in any area, but by not having any crippling flaws."
 
Further stirring the pot, the Wall Street Journal released last week its first-ever U.S. Airport Rankings, based on 15 categories ranging from on-time reliability to security wait times to quality of amenities to walking distance between terminals. A surprising result: Denver International Airport, once the subject of ridicule on late-night talk shows, came out on top thanks to particularly high scores related to reliability, value, and convenience. New York's big three—Kennedy, LaGuardia, and Newark—came in last, but have a combined $24 billion in improvements underway to remedy that.
 
WSJ's editors emphasized to readers that they ranked only the 20 busiest airports in the U.S. because the aggregate data was consistent among them. What's more, "the biggest airports face different challenges than smaller ones in terms of delays, cancellations, congestion, walking distance, costs, and other factors," they said. One data point to provide perspective: Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport handles 100 million passengers a year, while perennial flier favorite Tampa International Airport handles just 19.5 million.
 
Nonetheless, reader reaction was swift and pointed. "Many fliers consider U.S. airports mediocre at best, and still lagging behind the best international airports despite billions of dollars in improvements," according to the Journal. "What our readers do like: medium-size, less crowded, more convenient places to get on and off aircraft such as Tampa, Fla., Portland, Ore., and even Washington’s Dulles International." Sure enough, those three facilities appeared on The Points Guy's list.  

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