Photo: Getty Images/Joe Raedle
Remember that night when you had to snuggle up on the terminal floor in Orlando because your flight got canceled? Or that time when you dashed full-sprint across Chicago O’Hare airport only to miss your connecting flight by two minutes?We’ve all been there, and we all have a few airports we’d prefer to avoid if at all possible. From missed connections to rampant delays and unexplained cancellations, sometimes those three-letter airport codes make us want to use some four-letter words.
That said, just because you had a lackluster experience at LaGuardia or your friend hates Hobby doesn’t necessarily mean that those are the worst airports, statistically speaking.
At Hopper, we ran the numbers to give you a solid factual basis for evaluating which airports you should leave off your itinerary. And if you can’t avoid them, at least you can come prepared for some good, old-fashioned air travel anguish.
How did we figure this out? We evaluated the 100 airports with more than 5,000 flights per year. Our criteria included average departure delays, number of flights canceled, on-time departure percentages and weather delays (both frequency and duration). The 15 airports featured in this slideshow are the ones most likely to turn your dream vacation into a living nightmare.
For a more detailed chart, check out the Hopper blog!
You're probably not surprised to find Atlanta on a 'worst airports' list, but you might be surprised to find that it's actually the best of the worst. A dubious title, to be sure, but we still give Atlanta props for its 83.75% on-time departure rate.
It's not A+ territory, but it could definitely be worse. That said, Atlanta does rank pretty high on the 'canceled flight' list, with 1,038 nixed in 2011 alone.
With an average departure delay time of well over 13 minutes, this small airport isn't doing Knoxville any big favours.
It faced 3,535 weather delays in 2011, and has an on-time departure rate of just 81.22%, well below industry averages. However, while it doesn't do too well by the numbers, travellers seem to like the airport, which is clean and modern, if small. Should you get stuck in Knoxville, we recommend you head over to the Dead End barbecue for some authentic Tennessee smoked meats and gooey pimiento mac and cheese.
Southern cookin' at its finest.
They say everything's bigger in Texas, but apparently that doesn't include the on-time departure rate at Hobby.
At just over 75%, it's well below the industry average. That said, if you do get stuck in the Lone Star State, there's plenty of Tex Mex to keep you going until your plane comes in. And if your plane gets canceled, as it did in 1.19% of cases in 2011 (far above the industry average) we recommend you grab a Dos Equis and kick up your boots.
There's no point crying over spilled cerveza.
The 43,124 weather delays that JFK sees each year cements its place on the 'worst' list.
Though New York deals with its fair share of thunderstorms, it's really the snow that puts JFK over the edge, making its weather delay batting average even higher than Miami's. JFK is still no Dallas, but its paltry 83.29% on-time take-off rate is nothing to get excited about.
However, if you're on one of the 400 or so flights that get canceled each year, there's plenty to do in the Big Apple. Who really needs to visit the in-laws anyway?
An impressive 38,705 weather delays in 2011 earned Miami its spot on the 'worst' list. With tropical storms blowing through the sweltering southern city on an alarmingly regular basis, there's a good chance your plane will be grounded for a while.
MIA also faced an average departure delay of over 12 minutes, plus 287 outright canceled flights in 2011. While you're waiting, we recommend you grab a mojito and the latest issue of Modern Luxury.
Who knows? Maybe you'll spot a Kardashian or two.
Claiming the dubious title as the only regional airport to make our 'worst' list, Fayetteville had an exceptionally high flight cancellation rate of 2.13% in 2011.
The tiny airport saw 151 cancellations and a less than 84% on-time takeoff rate. Should you find yourself spending an impromptu night in Fayetteville, you might be cheered to learn that Forbes Magazine recently ranked the area as the second-best in terms of recovery from the current economic recession. This is thanks in no small part to nearby Bentonville, AR, which is the world headquarters of Walmart.
The good news is that if you forgot your toothbrush, or pajamas or inflatable dinosaur-shaped pool toy or pretty much anything else... Walmart's got you covered.
With a less than 75% on-time departure rate in 2011, SFO ranks near the bottom of the barrel when it comes to getting planes off the ground.
They also sported 2,283 cancellations in 2011. However, if you're travelling with the whole family, you'll be happy to learn that the airport features an aviation museum, children's art exhibits and a weather-themed play area designed by SF's innovative Exploratorium.
At least the little ones will be entertained while you give the airlines a piece of your mind.
Though Denver boasts a relatively low departure delay average, it also faced 1,246 canceled flights in 2011.
Furthermore, the city scored 36,700 weather delays last year, in large part due to snowstorms. Yikes. If you do get stranded in the Mile High City, we recommend booking a hotel room and enjoying the powder on a nearby peak. There's always a silver (err... white?) lining!
With a measly 5,560 flights taking off each year, you'd think Savannah wouldn't have any trouble getting them off the ground on time.
Not so, as the airport still puts up a less than 80% on-time departure rate. 1.73% of flights were also straight-up canceled in 2011, often due to weather. Of course, you can always chow down on some authentic fried okra and wash it back with sweet tea while you wait for those southern thunderstorms to clear.
It could be much worse.
The third-largest city in North Carolina unfortunately features a lame 80.32% on-time departure average, putting it well into our 15 worst airports list.
Perhaps it's some consolation that, with delays averaging nearly 16 minutes each, you should have plenty of time to scarf down some proper southern fried chicken and mashed potatoes (pass the gravy!) before boarding.
By the time your flight finally takes off, you may find yourself drifting happily into food coma territory.
Fun fact: DFW covers more than 26.9 square miles, making it larger in area than Manhattan. With a dismal 72% on-time departure rate, you'll probably want to score a meal or two from Cousins' BBQ while you're waiting--but make sure you have enough time to travel across the giant airport, or you could miss your flight while you're lickin' the barbecue sauce off your fingers.
With a whopping 17-plus minute departure delay average, there's a pretty decent chance you're going to be spending more time in Newark than you had hoped. On the bright side, if your flight gets outright canceled (which happens about 1.79% of the time), you can hop on a commuter to New York and have a little adventure in the Big Apple. Carpe Diem, right?
Represented on the 'worst' list with three different airports, Texas is almost as well-represented on our list as it is in Congress. If you're flying out of this Houston airport, you have a greater than 25% chance of taking off late. It doesn't help that the airport also faces an average departure delay of 15 minutes, a number that in many cases climbs much higher.
Our advice? Grab a margarita and some tacos from Pappasito's, and you'll hardly mind the wait.
With an average departure delay of more than 14 minutes, Dulles clocks in as the second-worst airport in the nation by our calculations.
They suffer 28,485 weather delays each year and must contend with an average on-time departure rate of just 77.82%. One saving grace for any politically-minded travellers is that there's a pretty good chance you'll spot a congressman or two while you're waiting for your plane to taxi in.
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