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Worst Airports In The US: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Mark Strotman for Bookies.com

Mark Strotman  | 6 mins

Worst Airports In The US: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

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If you’re someone with family in another state and will be forced to travel over the holiday season, we’re hoping this article doesn’t give you too much PTSD. In fact, you may find it comforting. An approximate 4.51 million Americans traveled by air over Thanksgiving, and that number jumped to an estimated 7.2 million over the week of Christmas.

If you were part of that number, we hope there was a stiff drink waiting for you at the end of your travels. Aside from your crazy uncle spouting off about his latest conspiracy theory that he definitely has proof of, the reason we thank you for your service is because we know how difficult it can be getting through airports. 

Whether you traveled through the country’s biggest airport (Denver International; 53 square miles), the smallest (Dawson Community Airport; 413 acres), or anywhere in between, it’s likely you dealt with long TSA wait times, delays, and maybe even a cancellation.

But which states provide travelers with the best (shortest) and worst (longest) experience? Where can you find a sweet spot this holiday season if you have the luxury of choosing your airport—or where can you brag to your out-of-state friends that you, indeed, have the smoothest airport experience in your home state?

We found out.

We collected data on the busiest airports in each state in three different categories: average time to get through TSA lines, the percentage of flights delayed at that airport, and the percentage of flights canceled at that airport. These are our key takeaways:

Good Luck Getting Out Of The Northeast And Cold-Weather States

We expected that more densely populated areas of the country and those locations that have to deal with snow for a better portion of the winter months would fare poorly—and for the most part, they did. The worst airport in our rankings was Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey—and it wasn’t particularly close. 

Their “score” of 144 was 13 points higher than No. 2 (Colorado), the same difference between Colorado and No. 6 Massachusetts(117).

EWR’s average time to get through TSA lines was 23.1 minutes, one of just three airports to reach the headache-inducing 20-minute threshold (Louisiana and Hawaii were the others). Its 25.61% delay rate was its “best” feature, and even that was the sixth worst mark on the list. 

Cancellations were rough, too, at 2.86%—just below North Dakota’s 2.88% and tied with Maine’s rate among the worst in the country.

Worst Airports In The US: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly 1
 

In total, five states from the Northeast were categorized into the top 20 worst airports. New Jersey led the way, with Massachusetts (6th), New York (10th), Maine (17th), and New Hampshire (18th) all putting up numbers that were far from stellar.

Keeping with the cold theme, Colorado (2nd), Illinois (7th), and Wisconsin (8th) also had ugly rankings despite their TSA line times being fine—certainly weather delays are more prevalent in those locations, but we’d be remiss to not give shoutouts to cold-weathered Pennsylvania (45th), Rhode Island (47th), and Delaware (48th) for all being among some of the best airports in the country to travel from.

We Hope You’re Not In A Rush Getting Out Of These States

We can honestly live with longer TSA lines—just more time to read all the great content we’re pushing out, right?—and it simply means you’ll need to give yourself some more time arriving at the airport. The issues arise when flights start getting delayed or canceled altogether.

From a delay standpoint, Florida’s Orlando International Airport tops the list. With more than 30% of flights not getting out on time, travelers may disagree with Disney’s claim of it being the most magical place on Earth. It may be confusing to see a warm-weather state at the top of the delays list (there’s always a chance that inclement weather in the destination state is what caused it, of course) but that was a common trend at the top. 

Below Florida, Nevada (2nd) and Texas (5th) came in near the top of the list. More slots and video poker are available for those stuck in Las Vegas, while unfortunately, everything’s bigger in Texas—including wait times.

But we can live with a flight delay (most of them) as long as we’re eventually in the air. Well, that’s easier said than done at a handful of airports that ranked worst in that category. North Dakota, New Jersey, and Louisiana topped the list, with Vermont, South Dakota, and New Hampshire (more ugly Northeast numbers) trailing slightly behind.

One interesting note on North Dakota? Despite having the highest number of canceled flights, Hector International Airport had the fourth shortest average TSA lines—nothing says hurry up and wait like getting through security in under 4 minutes only to have your flight canceled.

SEC Country Knows How To Move Its Planes

The gold standard in airports is Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport. While it’s quite long to say, you’ll have a short stay here thanks to its 3.8-minute average TSA line (5th fastest), a 14.48% delayed flight rate (the lowest among the 50 states), and a 1.15% cancelation rate (the 10th lowest among the 50 states). It passed with absolute flying colors, and its Southeast counterparts weren’t far behind.

Alabama’s Birmingham airport finished with the 8th best score among all airports, anchored by its 7.1-minute average TSA line, and Arkansas’ Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport was just in 9th place thanks to its US-best 2.5-minute average TSA line. Georgia was the mixed bag of all mixed bags—with below-average marks in delay percentage (21.6%) and TSA wait line (14.5 minutes) but was stellar in avoiding cancellation with a 0.95% rate, the fourth-best mark in the country.

It's clear busier isn’t better

On the one hand, it makes sense that smaller airports would do well because less can go wrong—but a string of delays or cancelations can also hurt their percentages more than bigger airports. Still, we aren’t surprised that the biggest airports on this list all finished with low rankings. Here’s a look at the busiest airports in the United States and where they finished in our rankings:

  1. ATL (33rd)
  2. DFW (48th)
  3. DEN (49th)
  4. ORD (45th)
  5. LAX (22nd)
  6. JFK (42nd)
  7. LAS (40th)
  8. MCO (47th)

Methodology:

Bookies.com collected data on flight delay percentages, Flight cancellation percentages, and average TSA wait times for the busiest airports in each state (by passenger volume). 

For all 3 statistics, they were each ranked 50 to 1, (50 being worst and 1 being best). Those totals were then tallied up for each airport and were listed from worst to best (highest to lowest total). Data for flight delays and cancellations was collected from 1/1/2023 to 7/2/2023.

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About the Author

Mark Strotman for Bookies.com
Mark Strotman
Mark is a veteran sports betting journalist who has covered the Bulls and the NBA since 2012. His work has appeared on ESPN.com, FoxSports.com, The Chicago Tribune and Yahoo Sports. He regularly provides NBA betting picks, as well as in-depth sportsbook reviews and the latest promo codes for all the major sports gambling operators, including Caesars Sportsbook, BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel and more.