The Worst Airports in the US

Honolulu Airport

In this post, we’re going to look at the worst airports in the US according to passenger ratings. While many American airports have excellent facilities and have improved considerably in recent years, others have started to feel dated. International travellers meanwhile continue to be frustrated by long waits and at times unfriendly welcomes at passport control in some airports.

While Google’s review/rating system may not be the perfect way to rank airports, it’s a useful indicator as to how good the overall passenger experience is. Ratings are accurate as of 17th June 2022. For the purposes of this article we only looked at the 35 busiest airports in the US according to 2019 (pre-pandemic) passenger figures, so all major international airports were taken into account.

The 5 Worst Airports in the US according to Passenger Reviews

1. Chicago Midway International Airport

Chicago Midway
Chicago Midway via Chris Bungo & uploaded via Sox23, CC BY-SA 3.0

Midway International Airport is nearing its centenary year, having opened in 1927 as Chicago’s main airport. That honour now goes to O’Hare International, which also has its flaws, but it is Midway which ranks as America’s worst airport according to Google reviews with a score of just 3.6.

The most common complaint seems to be from passengers who talk of major problems getting food in the evening and by that we don’t mean the middle of the night but 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. On the plus side, with a large number of bars, it’s seemingly a good place to drown your sorrows if you face a layover at the airport which sits bottom of the US airport rankings.

An overall disorganised feel, a lack of seating options and long queues are other comments which have contributed to its low ranking and to make matters worse, Midway is also the US airport with the most delays with a huge 33% of its flights reportedly not leaving on time. Even pilots don’t like coming here too much with its short, intersecting four-runway system and slippery conditions in winter, making Midway one of the hardest airports to land at in the US.

Google Rating: 3.6

2. Newark Liberty International Airport

New York’s airports are notoriously unpopular with travellers with two of the three worst airports in the US serving the Big Apple. While it is situated in New Jersey, it is only nine miles west of Manhattan.

Its urban location does contribute to a lack of space. It is only 40% of the size of New York JFK but handles almost as many flights and typically ranks in the top 50 busiest airports in the world with a large number of transatlantic flights, as well as plenty to other parts of North America.

Long queues on arrival and an overall dated feel are among the negative comments from passengers. It has also been described as one of the ugliest airports and it could definitely use a few renovations. In the airport’s defence, many of the bad experiences are the result of United Airlines who use Newark as their main NY hub and carry over 60% of the airports’ passengers.

Google Rating: 3.7

3. New York LaGuardia Airport

La Guardia Airport
La Guardia Airport via Katherine Johnson, CC BY 2.0

Across the Hudson River and on the other side of New York, you find LaGuardia Airport which is no more popular than Newark with passengers, also scoring 3.7 on Google. New Yorkers, it has been said, do like to complain a lot, which may have something to do with the lower scores but like Newark, LaGuardia does have some very obvious flaws.

It was opened in 1929, a year after Newark and 2 years after Midway with the late 1920’s seemingly not a great time for airport planning. A lack of space in some areas of the airport is a problem while the long and complicated connections remain a source of anger amongst travellers.

In fairness to LaGuardia, some recent reviews have been much more favourable with renovations having given it a much more modern feel with the new Terminal B and additional skybridges greeted with overall positivity suggesting it could rate higher in future years.

Google Rating: 3.7

4. Philadelphia International Airport

Staying in the northeast of the country, Philadelphia ranks as the 4th worst airport in the US according to google passenger reviews with a score of 3.8.

This is even older than the top three with Philadelphia International opening in 1925 meaning it has served as the city’s main airport for nearly a century. It benefits from a relatively central location, just 7 miles from Downtown Philly, as well a direct rail service. However unfriendly staff, poor signage, long queues at security and long waits for baggage are among the common complaints.

Unlike LaGuardia, the reviews seem to be getting worse not better too with recent staffing problems adding to the overall disdain that seems to exist for Philadelphia International.

Google Rating: 3.8

5. Honolulu International Airport

Honolulu Airport
Honolulu Airport via redlegsfan21, CC BY-SA 2.0

Hawaii may be one of the most popular travel destinations in the States but the good vibes only really start once you’ve safely negotiated your way through Honolulu International Airport, another of the least popular in the US.

Officially known as Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, it is located only three miles north of Honolulu’s business district and consists of three terminals, the most recent of which was only opened in 2018. Plans for the new Terminal 3 were besieged by problems though with three of the four airlines serving the old terminal going bankrupt leading to a scaled down design.

The international Terminal 2 is deeply unpopular with a dated feel and a fairly common series of complaints about long waits, poor signage and unfriendly welcomes doing little to create a positive first impression of the beautiful island of Oahu.

Google Rating: 3.8

Top 10 Worst Airports in the US 2022

Ranking Airport Google Rating
1 Chicago Midway International Airport 3.6
2 Newark Liberty International Airport 3.7
3 New York LaGuardia Airport 3.7
4 Philadelphia International Airport 3.8
5 Honolulu International Airport 3.8
6 Los Angeles International Airport 3.9
7 Chicago O’Hare International Airport 4.0
8 New York JFK International Airport 4.0
9 Charlotte Douglas International Airport 4.0
10 Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport 4.1

Again, remember we are only factoring in the busiest US airports (ones with 15 million passengers or more in 2019 – the last “normal” year for aviation). There may be some worse ones amongst the smaller, mostly domestic airports, although it’s often the larger, international ones which have the most delays and general inconveniences which irritate passengers.

One common theme that the six lowest ranked airports in the US have is that they were all opened during the initial aviation boom in the 1920’s. The better ranked airports have typically opened later when more thought has gone into location and scalability and many of those are situated in more spacious areas further away from the cities they serve.

This post on the worst US airports was written in June 2022, based on ratings at that time.

The Worst Airports in the US

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