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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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There are two types of people in the world: Those who loathe going through the airport and liars. OK, maybe some of you can put up with the stressful commute, TSA lines, cramped seats, potential delays and cancellations, and wildly expensive snacks and drinks. We can’t figure those people out—but maybe it’s because this author hails from a major city and is constantly fighting his way through traffic in Chicago and through O’Hare International Airport.

And after all, it should be relative. Maybe those people who don’t mind trips through the airport on their way to a business function, vacation, or a visit to family have that luxury because they live in a state where the major airport is a great place to be. Minute delays, fewer cancellations, and TSA wait times that are a breeze (might we add that getting TSA pre-check is something that everyone should do?).

So we decided to find out which states have it best—and which states should provide free Tylenol or Excedrin for those forced to go through their airports. Here’s what we did: We took each state’s largest airport and analyzed what percentage of flights out of that airport are canceled and delayed, and what the average TSA wait time is for patrons looking to check in and get to their gates. We then scored each airport on each and combined that number to find the worst airports in the country—as well as the best ones for traveling.

Here's what we found:

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

Cold Weather And Snow Almost Certainly Plays A Factor

We’ve got family in the Northeast, so we can confirm that it’s a nightmare getting to and from that region of the country. The numbers play out that way, too, with Newark Liberty International Airport coming in dead last on our rankings for a second consecutive year. If you think you’re going to skate around the issue and head to New York, that isn’t going to be much help considering JFK International Airport ranked 46th on the list. New Jersey ranked dead last in cancellation percentage (3.17%) and TSA wait times (23.1 minutes), meaning you’re going to have to wait in line…just to be told your flight isn’t taking off.

It's almost a certainty that weather plays a factor here. Consider that nearby Massachusetts ranked 49th on the list while Maine ranked 44th, and both Illinois and Colorado were in the bottom-6 of the country. Nasty winters make for difficult flights, though both those states also ranked in the bottom 10 of TSA wait times.

Then again, sunny Florida has absolutely no excuse for ranking 48th on the list. Maybe we can buy the rain argument, and hurricane season certainly doesn’t help. But the state has beautiful weather nearly the entire year and still managed to rank dead last in delay percentages and 45th in TSA wait times.

While we’re talking about weather as a factor, we need to give a shoutout to Minnesota. Despite some harsh winter conditions of their own, they ranked as the fifth best airport thanks to glowing marks in cancellation percentage (8th best), cancellation percentages (7th), and TSA wait times (23rd). Maybe Illinois should take notes.

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Mississippi With A Triple Crown-like Performance

It’s not easy being great at everything. We can’t all be Shohei Ohtani. But we couldn’t write up these rankings and not give flowers to Mississippi’s Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport. It ranked as the country’s top airport (among each state’s largest) and was actually the only airport in our rankings to finish in the top 10 in delay percentages, cancellations, and TSA wait times. Less than 12% of flights are delayed (the best mark on the list), a minuscule 0.37% of flights are canceled (second best, trailing only Idaho), and the average TSA wait time is 3.8 minutes (fifth best, and just 1.3 minutes “slower” than the list-leading Arkansas).

JAN was ranked the 10th most popular domestic airport of 2023 by Travel + Leisure, though we think it should be even higher on that list. The ranking noted its great restaurants and watering holes, though you may not be able to enjoy them because of how quickly you’ll move through the airport to your on-time departure.

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Delays vs. Cancellations Can Be A Wild Swing

Of course, you’d rather have a flight delayed than canceled, and we found a decent correlation between the two at most airports. The five worst airports for delays were also in the bottom half of the rankings for cancellations (Florida, Maryland, Nevada, Colorado, and Massachusetts). Likewise, of the nine airports with the lowest delay percentage, seven were in the top 20 for cancellation percentage.

However, there were a few major outliers that need addressing. Delaware’s Wilmington International Airport was second best in the country with just 12.4% of flights delayed. On the flip side, nearly 2.5% of all flights are canceled there, the third worst mark in the country. There was a similar trend in North Dakota, where Hector International Airport delays just 13.4% of its flights (fifth best) but cancels almost 1% of its flights (19th worst).

On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got a better than 1-in-5 chance that a flight will be delayed at Texas’ Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport (7th highest mark) but less than 0.7% of flights are actually canceled, good for the 15th best number in our rankings. We’ll also note Washington here, which has less than 0.4% of flights canceled (3rd best in the country) but expect some delays, with almost 18% of flights not taking off on time.

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 12/31/2023.

If you want to know more news like this, visit our entertainment news section.

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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.