scary airports

How scary are those “scary” airports?

What makes an airport scary?

For some, it’s those full-body scanners and long lines at security checkpoints. Others dread a flight cancellation that leaves them stranded and trying to get some shut-eye on an airport floor.

For its Scariest U.S. Airports list, travel website defined scary as an airport where landings and take-offs may be quite tricky.

John Wayne Airport, in Santa Ana, Calif., made the list because “due to strict noise reduction requirements, pilots must ascend at full throttle and then abruptly cut back their engines.” Chicago’s Midway International Airport was added because it has runways that are “close to 2,000 feet shorter than the ones at new airports.” And Colorado’s Telluride Regional Airport, which Airfarewatchdog notes is higher than any other commercial airport in North America, is considered scary because pilots are not allowed to make touch-and-go landings, and so “only have one shot to land on the runway, which dips in the middle.”

The other “scary airports” on this list include:

  • Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, Aspen, Colo.
  • Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport, Sitka, Alaska
  • Yeager Airport, Charleston, W.Va.
  • San Diego International Airport, San Diego, Calif.
  • LaGuardia Airport, New York, N.Y.
  • Catalina Airport, Avalon, Calif.

Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. was added to the list because it is between overlapping no-fly zones that offer pilots a narrow path to steer clear of CIA headquarters, the Pentagon and the White House.

“If you stray too far to the left of the Potomac, you’ll risk a significant fine and potential violation,” said Kent Wien, a pilot who writes the Cockpit Chronicles feature for “Too far to the right and you can’t successfully negotiate the last turn before the runway.”

It all does sound a bit scary. But should passengers with tickets into or out of any of these airports be very concerned?

“Lists like this seem to make me want to throw my coffee cup at the computer screen,” said Patrick Smith an airline pilot and author who blogs at “They give people an idea that there really are unsafe or dangerous airports. But if any of these airports was really unsafe,” Smith said, “no airline would go anywhere near it.”

Smith said New York’s LaGuardia Airport is an example of an older airport with shorter runways and a “spaghetti snarl of runways and taxiways.” But he said “certain airports from a pilot’s perspective are just more challenging than others.”

And Smith said some of those challenging features can offer rewards for passengers. “Coming from Boston to LaGuardia Airport, you sometimes come right down the Hudson River and get a gorgeous view of Manhattan. There’s nothing harrowing about it,” he said.

“These places aren’t really ‘scary,'” said Wien, “They just offer pilots an opportunity to do something slightly out of the ordinary.”

Even Airfarewatchdog founder George Hobica admits that the airports on the “Scariest U.S. Airports” list may not really be so scary. “Let’s face it; flying is the safest way to travel other than on your own two feet. So some might prefer to call these airports ‘thrilling’ rather than scary.”

My story about “scary airports” first appeared on

Good restrooms; bad airports

Sometimes the yin/yang of the inbox is entertaining.

yin/yang symbol

Today, for example, I received an urgent reminder to vote for America’s Best Restroom and a warning about staying away from the World’s Scariest Airports.

Let’s do both.

Each year Cintas takes nominations for the Best Restrooms in Canada and in the United States.

You can see all the past winners in the Hall of Fame, but here at we’re still celebrating 2005, when Fort Smith Regional Airport in Arkansas took home the potty-prize.

Award winning bathroom room Fort Smith Regional Airport

Winning bathroom at Fort Smith Regional Airport

This year, no airports are on the list of ten finalists, but the restrooms at Santa Monica Pier are on the list as are those at New York City’s Muse Hotel and Bryant Park, where the amenities include attendants, flowers, scented oils and electronic seat covers  – amenities we’d be happy to see at all airports..

Take a look at the best-loo finalists and cast your vote for America’s Best Room by August 31st.

Once you’ve voted for the best restroom in the U.S., take a look at the airports has put on its list of World’s Scariest Airports.

old airport photo

In my book, scary airports are those with icky bathrooms, overpriced food or pay-to-use-WiFi. But this list defines scary airports as those where geography and/or weather make take-offs and landings dicey.  Which airports are on the list? In the U.S. the authors list New York’s LaGuardia Airport, Yeager Airport in West Virginia, John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, CA. – and the airport in Nantucket, MA.  International airports that make the list are in Guatemala, Scotland, New Zealand, Bhutan, Gibralter and Honduras.

What makes an airport scary for you?