Any airport, even an amenity-rich one, can feel like hell if you’re stuck there when you really want or need to be somewhere else. Just ask Edward Snowden.
But many travelers have very specific reasons for loathing the time they spend at certain airports. For my July “At the Airport” column on USA Today Travel, I asked readers for the “worst” and got a suitcase full of nominations.
Worst US Airport?
Cheryl-Anne Millsap of Spokane, WA dreads Denver International Airport. “I always seem to get stuck there for one reason or another,” she said. “There’s no hotel and it’s a boring place to spend 6, 8 or 9 hours.”
John Barth, a media executive in St. Louis, describes New York’s LaGuardia Airport as “a dump and an utter disgrace. It’s filthy, crowded and there’s no room for what must be a massive business clientele.”
Jason Rabinowitz, editor of NYCAviation.com, agrees. “Before you even get to LGA, you are in a bad mood because it’s not connected to any meaningful public transportation, just a very slow city bus. Once inside, check-in areas are tiny, security lines overflowing, and your cell phone will most likely stop working because it has no signal. And Wi-Fi isn’t free.”
Los Angeles International Airport gets thumbs down from Jill Jackson, who lives in Washington, D.C. “It’s grubby, confusing and too cramped for space. And I always have to wait in line for 20 minutes just to buy a bottle of water,” she said.
Courtney Rugen hates stopping at Kansas City International Airport because it’s “inconvenient to have to go outside security to get food – or anything.” And Jeff Lutz, a Detroit-based marketing director, doesn’t like Washington’s Dulles International Airport because “it feels like you have to take a lengthy shuttle or leave security in order to move anywhere,” which makes for bad connections.
The “worst signage” on roads approaching Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport turns DFW into a “very confusing” place for Laurie Lee Cosby, a voice instructor from Fort Worth, while financial consultant Seth Bailey finds Philadelphia International Airport “kind of dirty, with staff [that] isn’t that friendly.”
With many others, Bryan Smith, a supply chain security consultant in Pennsylvania ranked Newark-Liberty International Airport (EWR) as “the worst domestic airport.” Charlotte-based photographer Jamey Price finds the EWR security lines “always obscenely long; to go in each terminal you have to re-enter security, so to change airlines you have to renegotiate TSA and it always seems to make you late, or nearly late for the next flight.”
Not even small airports escaped being called “the worst.” At Colorado’s Montrose Regional Airport Travel, “there will be a long period of inactivity, then three large jets from different airlines and different cities will be scheduled to land within a ten minute span,” said travel and food writer Larry Olmstead. There’s only one luggage belt, so “once you get your luggage there is no place to go and on a busy day, every square foot of the terminal is jammed. Lines for departures stretch outside into the street, even in winter.”
Worst International Airports?
On work trips, New Yorker Bill Thayer is unhappy if he has to connect through Orly Airport in Paris. “I’ve been there on a number of hot summer days, making the packed bus rides from the gate to the airplane even more painful. Plus, there are seemingly giant crowds at every gate,” he said.
Victoria Van Camp considers the larger Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to have “the most confusing layout in the world, with signs pointing to heaven” when they mean “go straight.”
Aaron Gayhart of Atlanta, Georgia doesn’t want to go back to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya anytime soon. “It was built to accommodate 2.5 million people and it now averages double that, so it’s extremely overcrowded and cramped,” he said. When he was there, “it was dirty, hot, stinky and full of people asleep on the ground and scam artists eyeing tourists.”
And then there’s Chad’s N’Djamena International Airport. We thought NY-based healthcare communications professional Peter Cleary was exaggerating when he described it as “the worst airport ever.” But after learning about his bug-filled evening there when the air-conditioning was out, we may have to agree.
Cleary arrived to find that a door had been propped open for fresh air and “the light near the door attracted a biblical amount of bugs. Literally every surface of the classroom-sized departure lounge was crawling with insects.”
He tried sweeping the bugs off his bags and turning in a slow circle to keep new bugs from crawling over his shoes and up his pant legs. “Some of the bugs were so big you could actually feel them through your shoes as you kicked them away,” he said.
The evening went from bad to worse when it was time to board the plane and passengers were sent outside for an open bag security check. “This provided ample opportunity for larger bugs to join their smaller friends that had already worked their way into my luggage,” said Cleary. So when he landed in Ethiopia he dumped his luggage in the nearest garbage bin rather than take the suitcases – and all those bugs – home.
After reading this story full of nominations for the worst airport, John Walton, Director of Data for Routehappy (a website that ranks flight on a happiness scale) pulled this list of ‘worst airports’ as rated by the site’s users.
Here’s the top of the list:
Amman Queen Alia, Jordan (AMM)
Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya (NBO)
Guangzhou, China (CAN)
Moscow Domodedovo, Russia (DME)
Phuket, Thailand (HKT)
Bali Denpasar, Indonesia (DPS)
Mumbai, India (BOM)
Manila Aquino, Philippines (MNL)
Berlin Schoenefeld, Germany (SXF)
Hobart, Australia (HBA)
Krakow, Poland (KRK)
London Luton, UK (LTN)
San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU)
Please feel free to add your nominations for the worst airport below.