What Is America’s Worst Airport?

by Jim Geraghty

Safe travels, everyone. Today’s Jolt also discussed the airports you don’t want to get stuck in this weekend:

May Your Thanksgiving Travel Not Pass Through America’s Worst Airport

In preparation for the busiest travel day of the year, Gizmodo polled its readers on their choice for the country’s worst airport, and their top eight include:

8) Kansas City International Airport
7) Dulles International Airport
6) Philadelphia International Airport
5) Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport
4) Newark Liberty International Airport
3) O’Hare International Airport
2) Los Angeles International Airport
1) LaGuardia Airport

The first observation: Are bookstores dying in airports? Do people on planes not read anymore? If so, this strikes me as a strikingly depressing development for our society. It’s one of the few places where you can get relative peace and quiet, you’re out of cell-phone range, and you probably don’t have Internet access (and if you do, it’s pretty slow). Heck, reading is one of the few things you can do comfortably in an airline seat. Yes, perhaps everything has shifted to e-readers and Nooks, but there’s something so inviting about seeing an actual bookstore, as opposed to a newsstand, near your gate with time to kill.

The second observation: I realize dining in an airport is rarely going to be good. The frequent traveler’s best hope is that it be not bad. A variety of options is nice. I seem to recall perfectly acceptable burger-and-a-beer dining experiences in Raleigh, Charlotte, Miami, and Savannah.

In my experience, Dulles is very hit-and-miss. For some trips the TSA line moves pretty smoothly (particularly on mornings and weekdays), other times it’s an interminably slow-moving ordeal. Some corners of Dulles have a decent selection of eateries and at least one small bookstore, but other far-off gates leave you with a Dunkin’ Donuts and that’s it. My new home in Authenticity Woods is roughly equidistant from Dulles and Reagan National Airport, and Reagan always seems to offer a much smoother departure.

Fort Lauderdale is strikingly bad for departures, considering how busy it is (at least when a cruise ship arrives). Somebody needed to turn up the air conditioning, every gate seemed crowded, the dining options were pretty limited, and each gate area just seemed too small for the amount of passengers waiting for their flight.

Leaving from Orlando is a mess every time — lots of families with a ton of carry-on luggage taking forever to get through the TSA scanners. There are a lot of shopping and dining options before the security lines, but I figure most travelers — particularly if they’ve experienced Orlando’s tedious lines — just want to get through security and then grab a bite or browse the stores. Of course, on the other side, the pickings are a lot slimmer.

Houston seemed to work fine on my recent business trips, although I recall one family trip there a couple years ago when we decided, “we’ll eat after we get our luggage.” Surprise! No food options after the luggage carousels. That led to a long drive through Houston’s labyrinthine highway system, at night, with two very cranky boys.

Denver seems to have a pretty decent selection of eateries and stores. Dallas seems laid out oddly, in that giant ring form, but it has worked okay, and it still has a decent bookstore. Both Portland and Seattle had smaller airports than I expected, but I got in and out pretty easily both times.

If you see this man waiting at your gate, your flight is probably going to be delayed.

The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.