This past year or so, I have been in several dozen airports:

Austin TX
Bangor, ME
Boston, MA
Chicago Midway, IL
Chicago O’Hare, IL
Detroit MI
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Cleveland, OH
Denver, CO
Dallas, TX
JFK New York
Houston,TX
Indianapolis, IN
LaGuardia, New York
Los Angeles, CA
Miami, FL
Orlando, FL
Philadelphia, PA
San Francisco, CA
San Jose, CA
Washington, DC

Aruba
Berlin, Germany
Grand Cayman
Montreal CA
Toronto CA
Vancouver, BC Canada

Amongst others.

I can honestly that I have been in no shittier airport, in or out of America, than JFK. Getting to the drop off or pick up points, the delays to get checked luggage, the distance to the gates, pretty much aspect of any interaction travelers have with the site — are examples of horrific engineering designs.

I understand that most of JFK was built before the Wright Brothers actually flew at Kitty Hawk, and that means there are some legacy issues. It is probably unfair to assume the design team consisted of several retarded howler monkeys and a pile of old bricks. It just seems that way.

Some of you might say Newark is the worst in America, but Newark Airport, not surprisingly, is located in Newark. It does not disappoint: It is precisely the sort of shithole you would imagine you would find there.

On the other hand, you would imagine — or at least hope — that America’s premiere city’s premiere airport should be a sparkling entry into the country. Instead, it is increasingly emblematic of America’s despondent decline into disheveled disrepair.

You might expect that in a place like Detroit — except they have a really nice airport.

Category: Travel

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

81 Responses to “Worst Airport in America? I Nominate JFK”

  1. franklin411 says:

    What’s wrong with Newark? I’ve flown out of there a few times while visiting NYC (for some reason, I always end up flying in to JFK and out via EWR), and I didn’t notice anything especially bad. Miami is horrible because there’s no signage, and LAX is bad because you can’t move between the terminals so you’re stuck with the 2-3 eating options in your particular terminal. The AA terminal at LAX, for example, has a choice between burgers, burgers, and burgers.

  2. Mannwich says:

    JFK is an embarrassment to the country. A good friend just had a nightmare of a time there last week getting home from France. Lost luggage, bad airport design, just an overall dump of a place, from what I can remember. They really need to blow it up and start over.

    And I’m flying back through there in a few weeks from a trip abroad. Good times.

    Of the three NYC area airports, Newark (although it’s a bit dumpy) is hands down the best one. I actually don’t think it’s that bad. It also has the best public transportation options into the city.

    LAX is awful as well.

  3. Tiggy says:

    What airline did you fly? Jet Blue terminal at JFK is pretty nice, American is good also. I flew Delta out of JFK yesterday and I have to agree, that’s a shithole.

    ~~~

    BR: Delta the past 2X, American before that.

    Agreed — JFK Jet Blue is a very good terminal . . .

  4. Jack says:

    All you’re doing is bragging about how many airports you’ve been in. Get over it. Some days are good, some not.

  5. RadioFlyer says:

    Kennedy certainly isn’t great, but at least getting to and fro is so quick and easy. And safe. Plus, the ride on the Van Wyck or the Belt is great for your suspension. And blood pressure. Smooth sailing. And if you don’t take the roads, at least the Air Train is convenient. Oh, forget the train – the taxis are plentiful, and the best in the world.

    On a serious note – it’s even more amazing that NYC has remained such a desireable, prestigious, international city with 3 (or more – MacArthur anyone? Westchester?) of the worst airports in the world. I guess that says something about NYC. Something.

  6. Mannwich says:

    @Jack: Business travel ain’t that fun. I highly doubt BR’s likes spending time in airports.

  7. Bragging? About how many airports I have been in while out singing for my supper to clients who are going to do what they want anyway?

    -Supermodels I’ve slept with
    -Ferraris I’ve raced
    -$250K pots I’ve won in poker
    -Celebrity Names I can drop
    -Years I have been happily married
    -Professional accomplishments
    -Funny stories I can tell

    Thems bragging rights.

    But airports? You need MUCH better aspirations . . .

  8. ToNYC says:

    If you get over yourself and your entitlements, you’ll find that an airport that has a runways without dumpster-sized potholes and a way not to walk to the nearest city is OK. I guess you don’t have a $5 fine for whining in this bar, but thanks for listening.

  9. catman says:

    It was a shithole the last time I flew out of there in the 70″s and it’s miles from civilization. Other than that it’s a world class destination. Maybe if Disney bought Coney Island?

  10. karen says:

    If JFK falls short, I would not know because Virgin America makes my flights in such a pleasure..

    ~~~

    BR: My favorite airline — I wish they went to more cities . . .

  11. Mike in Nola says:

    Can’t claim to have flown much in the past decade, but my worst experience was a connection through Phoenix heading to Vancouver last year. Changing planes there saved a nice chunk versus straight through. I can see why you get a price break for that.

    My guess is it became a hub of sorts but the number of gates, size and seating did not expand along with the number of flights, at least where we were. Fortunately, we were there less than two hours, but wound up standing a good bit of the time as there aren’t enough seats.

  12. DonF says:

    Not checking baggage always makes an airport a little more tolerable, I’ve found. I used to fly Northwest into JFK which was in Terminal 4 I believe with nothing but International flights. It wasn’t as busy and getting through security was always a breeze. I haven’t flown there with Delta, but believe that is a different terminal and a different experience.

    Man, so many things to consider in this vote. I rarely have a smooth experience in Atlanta–If I had to vote, that would be mine.

    However, what is up with those elevating buses at Dulles that transport people from the terminals? This is the best they can do?

    ~~~

    BR: If i am traveling for a week, with suits, white starched shirts, ties, checked luggage is a must

  13. rashley314 says:

    There’s an airport in Palo Alto? I worked there for 4 years… Never saw an airport. Did you mean San Jose?

    ~~~

    BR: Doh! You are correct — I will fix above

  14. What do you have against Detroit?
    They’ve been through some very hard time.
    Have a little mercy

  15. Ilya says:

    Grand Cayman airport? You go there to visit your money? All in fun…

    The absolute hell hole of an airport that I have visited was in Kiev Ukraine circa 1993. It was many years ago but it had the auroa of a Greyhound terminal in Hays Kansas.

    The older I get the more I dislike the term ‘terminal.’

    ~~~

    BR: I spoke at an Insurance/Hedge Fund conference there, then played with the Sting Rays

  16. bedhead says:

    I’m tempted to nominate Miami (it really is an awful airport) but the women that walk around that place more than make up for its problems. Noon on a Sunday and half the gals down there are in 5 inch heels, a mini skirt, and some kind of top that doesn’t disappoint. Last time I was there in the security line I was directly behind the Miami Heat dancers, who were all wearing daisy dukes and skin-tight, midriff-baring tank tops for some reason. Only time I’ve ever thanked god for a massive bottleneck at the x-ray machines.

  17. Creamcicle says:

    stage 1, bragging unacceptable
    stage 2, bragging acceptable
    stage 3, bragging unacceptable

    stage 1, phds and semi professional athletes. stage 2, br and women with breast implants. stage 3, bill gates and religion.

    gl on your trip to level 3, avoid jfk at all costs

  18. r says:

    oh my goodness…. this is like saying, “boy, my vinyl record sounds so scratchy and skips. is there a good record cleaner that will make it sound better?” No, buy an iPod and start listening to digital music.

    why are you flying all over the place to speak? Try GoToMeeting.com. you don’t need to be there in person. I have learned that I am not that good looking that i need to be there in person and it is not worth spending 48 hrs traveling to give a 30 minute powerpoint presentation.

    life is way too short Barry. i stopped flying around the country to give talks 7 years ago. i can do so000000000000000000000 much more from home. the only time i fly is for very very key client presentations ( > $2M deals) or for vacation (which is only 1 week a year).

    unless you need the money for in person speaking engagements. i earn enough with my trades.

  19. Most of the travel is for work, going to potential clients. Our asset management has grown from $30M to nearly $500M over the past 3 years, and relentless travel is part of that.

    In terms of speaking gigs, I actually get to see the speaking fees, whereas my salary goes into the household account, where Mrs. BP handles it. So any speaking fees 1) feels more real than my regular income; 2) pays for any discretionary purchases of toys.

  20. teraflop says:

    I took a trip to China in April this year, the flight hopped from Dallas through LAX to Inchon to Beijing along with a later side trip to Hong Kong. LAX is a joke compared to the organized, sanitized, clean, and safe airports of Inchon & Beijing. Even the greeters in the International gate at LAX warned me from “speaking to anyone while walking (!walking, after a cross-Pacific flight) to a connecting gate.”

    As for JFK, I put my money where my mouth is, we’re in NYC mid-August, arriving at La Guardia. ‘Nuff said.

  21. Thor says:

    There’s an airport in Palo Alto? Or are you referring to San Jose? Or the small commuter airport in San Carlos?

  22. tawm says:

    2 episodes in JFK sealed my opinion:
    a) a guy pissing in the sink because he couldn’t wait in line for a urinal
    b) a woman sitting down suddenly on a crowded escalator and letting everyone behind her stack up and fall over themselves, trampling her and others near her….
    What a strong statement it makes to visitors / returnees! It’s a sad, sad testimony to how this country is falling part.

  23. Thor says:

    San Francisco has a nice airport – Clean, new, nice access into the city. LAX, not so much.

  24. smbcapital says:

    Ok I will bite. Which supermodels?

  25. philipat says:

    It’s lucky you have no experience with airports (And hotels and airlines for that matter) in Asia, otherwise you would REALLY be piss*d at US “Services”!! (Side issue, how can you have a service economy that has no service?)

    Actually, I normally transit JFK incoming on Singapore Airlines at the new International Terminal (First flight in and I’m first through Immigration. Being Singapore Airlines with proper bag segregation so F bags are waiting on arrival. Then on the train link to the UA terminal for a connection. It’s really not that bad?

  26. philipat says:

    Would it be reasonable to assume that you have recently flown in to said JFK and had a less than stellar experience ;-)

  27. Repeatedly . . . Last night confirmed that the experiences were a trend, not an aberation

  28. philipat says:

    And your comments about sparkling entry points not withstanding, you will also not be familiar with that fine body of men and women who comprise US Immigration. Nor should you want to. Side question: why doI have to be finger-printed and photographed EVERY time I enter the US fair shores? Isn’t that the whole purpose of a Database. Or can I assume that as a Government database it has to “Link” to 416 other Agencies with attendent problems? If so, what’s the point? But than again, that’s a question which could be posed of so many Government “Services” in all countries!

    At least it’s only the UK that loses all such data in laptops on trains and in taxis. Oops, I stand corrected!!!

  29. Tim says:

    Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport

    I haven’t been there since 2006, but that one
    gets my vote as the worst. I haven’t quite
    traveled as much as you, but it’s close.

    Tim

  30. Darkness says:

    Singapore is wonderful. And the hotel at the airport is an experience on its own. They don’t let you stay by the hour, tho . . . so 28 hours is a two day stay. Everyone falls over themselves to serve you.

    And, worst: terminal 1 of Charles de Gaulle. The architecture is bad 80s sci fi, and makes no sense for moving people, hence the flying crossed escalators of doom. I guess Avant Garde is French for people are like manufactured goods to be shunted around without their needing to know why or where.

  31. requiem says:

    I suspect a large part of the experience is due to Delta; my parents never understood why I refused to fly Delta until they flew Delta into JFK. Now they too refuse to fly Delta.

    The gf notes that JetBlue into JFK is rather nice. (I’m told that following a Honolulu trip, her family also refuses to fly Delta.)

  32. MikeG says:

    Vancouver airport is very nice. The customs area with the waterfall is very welcoming. Singapore is stunning.
    LAX arrivals is a shithole, complete with Soviet-style barking thuggish customs/immigration. The rest of the airport is shabby and crowded but tolerable. Santa Barbara is a little gem.
    Heathrow is so shitty in every single dimension it has to be deliberate. Whoever manages that hole deserves to be kicked by a donkey.

  33. rashley314 says:

    Darkness,
    Nice call on Changi in Singapore. Of course, I’m hard pressed to come up with substantial complaints about Singapore overall.

  34. sakhalinsk says:

    The problem is that you live in North America. You’re stuffed. Compare the available airports to pretty much any Asian airport. They’re so shiny! Singapore is great, as is Incheon, and some of the Chinese airports are amazing too, even the “small” cities you’ve never heard of. Schiphol in the Netherlands is good, as are Zurich and Munich (german efficiency works). And at least Nice has the Med.

    Flying in the US has become such an awful experience. LAX was my last go. Not good. Mind you, I was almost impressed by George Bush in HOU. Of course, try London Heathrow for a suitably horrific experience. More third world than the Third World.

    Alternatively, for a truly horrible airport experience there is always Sherem’tevo in Moscow. I assume that’s still awful. Or Baku? Does it still have the crashed plane at the end of the runway?

    Infrastructure in Asia is getting impressive!

  35. Actually, there is a small airport in Palo Alto.

    Head east on Embarcadero from downtown, pass over the Bayshore Freeway and continue almost all the way to the Bay, just past the municipal golf course. Runway is about 2000′, IIRC, parallel to the Bay. Similar in size to San Carlos further to the north, but better hidden. Not really suitable for anything more than a light twin and certainly no commercial service.

    Both LAX and JFK are highly terminal-dependent. Use the newest or most recently renovated ones and you’re OK. Use the others and it’s a mess. Changing terminals is a mess at both. It’s a bad relic of inadequate central planning: back in the day both cities allowed the airlines to design and build their own terminals, making for for a few very pretty (but ultimately nonfunctional) buildings, but no cohesive whole. JFK is slowly dealing with the relics. They’ve taken on the preservationists and decided to knock down the current abandoned Terminal 6 (formerly JetBlue, originally National Airlines). Delta says they’re finally going to do something about their complex at Terminals 2 & 3 (formerly Eastern and the Pan Am Worldport). The latter is sure to be a battle with the preservationists as well, but current climate seems not to favor them. More than likely the facade and original roofline get preserved and everything behind it gets knocked down, along with T2.

    Portland has a very nice airport. Grown nicely since I lived there, but they did it right. Salt Lake also have managed things pretty well: The oldest concourse still kind of crappy, but serves a very small portion of their flights.

  36. covel says:

    Singapore, Narita, Hong Kong (passed through) … and I can imagine Beijing’s … some parts of world do it right on airports. We got issues.

  37. ohIknow says:

    I am a long-time reader but this is the first post in which I absolutely HAD to comment!

    JFK is truly godawful. It’s so far from Manhattan that you have to take a long cab ride or even longer train ride. Even from the any area of Queens off of Queens Blvd. or Flushing, it takes forever in traffic. Staff is rude and none of the services are ever open. The futuristic tunnel thing they had was kinda cool. At LaGuardia, I can take the train into town and save $30, a cab is too quick of a transition into Manhattan. For some reason, I cannot get tickets to fly me into LaGuardia that don’t cost an arm and a leg or are at inconvenient times or some other weird issue.

    The worst, and I mean the worst, airport in the history of airports is Denver’s. Rude, aggressive, or zombie staff. They purposely designed it so you wouldn’t have access to the outside so you would be forced to buy airport merchandise. That mini-subway to get around it?!?!?! That place is dehumanizing, demoralizing, designed to suck your soul away from you. Wanted to sit for a while, but guess what? No chairs anywhere except for the bar. Made me pay $5 for a Coke while a local changed her baby in the smokers’ lounge. When I asked why she was allowed to sit for free, they told me to finish my Coke and kicked me out. Finally got outside and saw the desolate landscape surrounding the place, got depressed, and resolved never have a layover in Denver ever again. DENVER – Is this how you make a first impression?

  38. Marcus says:

    For the worst I add Norita. Very long waits in line, plastic and unfriendly, not to mention a recent $200 cab ride into town. And if you don’t like JFK (I agree by the way), try Stansted in London and any Ryan Air Flight. You haven’t suffered until you try Ryan. Ryan is truly flying hell!

    For the best airports – As an irony, Osaka is one of the best airports. Osaka gets you in an out of the airport quickly. The train station is just a few steps away. Also like Tampa/Orlando, Singapore,

  39. dhan says:

    Try cross terminal transfer in Heathrow some time for a truly awful airport experience. They’re pretty good at losing checked bags there too. I find most American airports to be pretty good, although JFK and LAX are poor. Singapore and Hong Kong have excellent airports.

  40. Marcus says:

    Sir Ritholtz, how dare you, your works cut deep, you have challenged my country:

    “America’s despondent decline into disheveled disrepair”.

    How about –

    Detroit’s damn dependable departure delays.

    Delhi‘s despicable deadly derailment debacles.

    Denver’s dinosaur den doldrums.

    Deplaning in drenching downpours in Dubuque.

    Dallas described as Delta-dumped in dung.

    Dublin’s deliberate dyspeptic delivery.

    Methinks when you attack my country’s airports with acid tongue, you are like an acerbic Aardvark with an aging anvil!

    Recant while I decant.

  41. Abe_NYC says:

    JFK Terminal 3 (Delta) is hands down the worst terminal I’ve been to. Overall though, JFK is much better than LAX where I had the misfortune to transfer last year. Getting from one terminal to another was not fun even without the luggage. I’m surprised by the negative comments for Charles de Gaulle, I didn’t find anything terribly wrong there.

    Since I’ve just flown from JFK to Baku via Moscow (Sheremetyevo), I can speak of the latter two. The new terminals in Moscow are actually very nice (although my wife tells me the terminal from which she departed for New York had no air conditioning which in the current weather was horrific – will see myself in a couple of days). Baku has had a pretty nice airport for a number of years, although the fact you’ve got to go through customs before check-in (yes, going out) is pretty annoying, especially as you’ve got to separate from people who see you off even before checking in.

    Overall I liked Suvarnabhumi (Bangkok the most). The distances are huge, but it’s made up for by the multitude of shops and restaurants with reasonable prices, so you can actually shop ther; a spacious, well-equipped, cool airport. Incheon was good too, but prices are high as usual. I quite liked London Gatwick, that was 15 years ago. In the US, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Portland, OR all have very good airports.

  42. rileyx67 says:

    Am retired UAL pilot, and know have you beat in numbers of A/P’ into…and criticism as “bragnng” was ridiculous…that guy needs to spend year in a Business Traveling job, and then realize how horrilbe has become! Prior to DEreg of industry in’76 or ’77, seat pich in COACH was 36″…ND THAT IS WHAT GET IN first CLASS, AND IN COACH IS 31, anfd even less in th RJ’s!” Also, would gety a complimentary meal…remember that?!?

    NYC airports are all horrible due all the carriers want to arriive and depart at the “optimal” times these days, and ATC cannot handle all that, but DEreg has brought that on as well. Yes, think was a major eror introduced by Ted Kennedy (and am a DEM) and should be undone. Idiots “media talk aout the HUGE profits A/L’s made prior DEreg…I was on furlough from UAL form ’70 to ’77,and finaally Called back AFTRER DEreg passed!

    Warren Buffet’s biggest investing mistake was buying (I think) USAIR stiocks, and he has said his losses were due the “suicidal: interests of the managers (Cutting fares to compete>.).

    Some of these newer entrants advocated in this are again, NOT knowledge about the history of the industry…are they aware of histories of once touted Midway Air, Peoples Express and Midway and Branniff 2 nd 3!

    Finally a note on my favorite A/L Southwest( (now that Midwest Expres has bee thrown under teh bus by a larger holding company!…SW is an incredible carrier, but its superb business model would NEVER work as a NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL transportation system. We DO need to have those damnabkle Hub and Spoke systems, which SW wisely avoids, with mostly direct, non-stops, and NO inter carrier luggage transfers!

    So, summarily, we need go back to a REGULATED National/international Air Transport system…(check unbiased Consumers Reports. Org for PROOF that DEREG HAS NOT been effective, nor brought the cost of travel down.)

  43. Ny Stock Guy says:

    Don’t hold back Barry, tell us how you really feel.

    I’m with you on this, except that I think almost every thing about air travel is a hellish experience.

  44. PDS says:

    ditto on JFK…….but BR, for a guy with worldly opinions your travel is pretty US centric, you need to get out and about to shake off some of your parochial notions……i recommend you start with HK….great airport and as a bonus?…..Freest Economy in world….you should go enlighten yourself and learn why…have a nice day and enjoy these low volume rally days of summer!!!…while they last

  45. rollsroyss says:

    OK guys, ever heard about Paris LDF ??

    it’s actually Paris CDG, but LDF stands for Louis de Funès, the utterly funny French comedian from the 60ies/70ies. That’s how we call the French hub now.

    LDF has a quite cool design but apart from that you feel like in the third world.

    LDF is utterly funny:

    * 10 EUR sandwiches,
    * 30-45 min baggage delivery delay,
    * important messages only in French,
    * buses from terminals run only every 15-20 min…
    * Trains from Paris to LDF are usually as crowded as a Bombay commuter train (with the sole exception that you can’t ride on the roof of the train), they have no air-con (you don’t even need to fly to your favorite bargain third world holiday destination to experience the temperatures where tropical diseases flourish).

    Oh .. and there’s one tiny little difference I almost forgot.. at least in third world countries the locals are friendly and welcoming… the only thing LDF welcomes you with is French hostility.

    LDF’s slogan might read: “Welcome to the third world, but with developed countries’ prices”

    I could go on and on

  46. vitamin_n says:

    I’ll throw in another vote for Miami International Airport. And I’ve only been through there once, but Charles De Gaulle struck me as a horrible airport. Some people use “third world airport” as a put-down, but I’ve been to a few third world airports and I liked them all better than CDG.

  47. huxrules says:

    Now don’t get me wrong – I think NYC is an awesome city. However BR’s arguments against JFK could be applied to the entire metro area as well. Every time I go to NY I’m suprised on how decrepid the entire city looks (at least the transportation side). I think it’s part of the citys charm. Lets face it – the US’s premire city was built by beople 100 years ago and for some reason nobody has had the balls to modernize it. I guess thats just the life cycle of a city however.

    As for worst airport – I’d say CDG.

  48. Patrick Neid says:

    Most airports over 30 years old around major metro cities suck. They are stuck with area constraints and all remodels have to be done while the airport operates. JFK is in permanent remodel phase, each more ugly than the last. Temporary this, temporary that. Small cities like Austin usually have nice airports because they are small, efficient and new. When they want a new terminal they just move to the other side of the field!

    Everything in Asia is NEW.

    I’ve been flying on a regular basis since the days of the 707′s and I’m still amazed that these suckers take off and I’m on one!

    Here’s a list of the traffic at major airports. The numbers are staggering in terms of people moved.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_busiest_airports_in_the_United_States

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World%27s_busiest_airports_by_passenger_traffic

  49. lalaland says:

    Jack Says:
    July 26th, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    All you’re doing is bragging about how many airports you’ve been in. Get over it. Some days are good, some not.

    YEAH BR! Stop making us green with envy that you’ve been to Cleveland’s airport! Get OVER yourself man…

  50. Julia Chestnut says:

    I spent a horrifically long time stuck in Detroit for weather – you know, it really is a nice airport. IAH is huge and ungainly, but there is a lot you can do there and it isn’t too bad for the most part. At least for something of its size and scope I can get a decent margarita while I’m there.

    I haven’t been in JFK in a couple of decades, luckily. Can’t comment. But I think that most of us can agree that critical infrastructure of all kinds has suffered greatly from our investment priorities over the past couple of decades. Oh yeah – and deregulating the airlines industry was a fantastic idea. Not.

    I am really happy that I’ve largely avoided airports since they quit letting me wear shoes and underwire bras. I resent having to get felt up just to get to the gate, where I’ll be crowded into less space than I would have in the middle-back seat of a Honda Civic. I’ve been all about Accela and the aforementioned Honda Civic for years.

  51. diogeron says:

    I agree. Before retiring a few years ago, I had clients all over the country and spent 30 years in and out of airports, using Indianapolis (a great new airport) as my base. JFK wins, hands down, as the worst. As an example, when my wife and I returned from Germany in May, we flew into JFK. Since our daughter lives in NYC, we decided to stay in the city and sleep off the jet lag and visit our daughter the next day. When we got to the cab stand outside the Delta terminal, there were no cabs. There was, however, a surly young woman who was supposed to assist in getting a cab and a pilot was waiting next to us. After waiting about ten minutes for a cab, I said to my wife, “I’m missing the efficiency of Germany already.” The pilot overheard me and said, “This airport is an embarrassment.” He’s right.

  52. constantnormal says:

    So it would appear that hatred of air travel is universal. Didn’t used to be that way.

    I suppose this means that the terrorists have won (and I include our Congress, Dubya-Cheney, and Obama in that grouping, of those who steer the public via terror, or threats thereof).

    It must be time for Steve Jobs to reshape our national air travel experience, and make it enjoyable once more. Or maybe Richard Branson.

  53. Bruman says:

    In the NY area, I like LGA the best, because it’s easy to get to, and reasonably organized.

    Newark is kinda blah in terms of design and appearence, but it is remarkably efficient in terms of getting around the airpor… the fact that you have to drive through a tunnel and up I-95 to get there is a bummer.

    JFK reminds me of the subways in NY… a bunch of somewhat-nearby buildings/stations supposedly interconnected. Flights in and out of JFK are often cheaper, but you have to tack on an extra $100 in cab rides usually, which can make a big difference.

    The longest walks I’ve done inside airport, I believe, are in Miami, and Manila.

    The most “pleasant” big airport I’ve been in was Amsterdam. I had a 5 hour layover at one point and it was really enjoyable.

  54. RandyClayton says:

    Barry Ritholtz said:

    > -$250K pots I’ve won in poker

    Would LOVE to hear a good poker story sometime Barry.

  55. CTMike says:

    If you are flying out of the NYC area, and have access to a car, Westchester is great (limited destinations obviously). It is relatively small and easy to get in and out of.

    I avoid JFK at all costs.

  56. Lugnut says:

    Having had more exposure to it, I would vote for Newark. It is despair writ large. Few amenities, or seats. Confusing inroads and outroads. Instant 1hour delays anytime there is a drizzle anywheres within 500 square miles. And its much better than it used to be as well. I think they’re still stuck with that same ancient ATC mainframe though.

    That said, having had to travel out to JFK via the Belt to do a drop off and pick up during the week recently, I am coming to loath it in equal measure.

  57. Bokolis says:

    First of all, where’s the f’n Gulfstream?

    Airline quality (Delta- criminally bad, Virgin- well, virgin) or asshole populace (Denver) factors. On Virgin, you can ping (hit on) birds from your seat.

    The main problem with Sewark is that you have to drive (all the way) to Sewark, a dealbreaker for most NYers. The airport itself is really not that bad.

    As an out-of-towner once explained, New York needs one more of everything (airport, East River crossing, Hudson crossing, etc.). JFK is an unavoidable consequence of traveling abroad or non-stop to the west coast…take it like a man. LGA (for NYC) is great unless it rains.

    Here’s a partial…why I prefer to drive, if only they’d let me drive 110 MPH. Alas, the 9 hour the Loop >> Holland Tunnel (done a few days after 9/11) was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.

    ATL is just about TBTF.
    CVG is so bad (Delta related) that I fly into CMH and drive to Cincinnati.
    DEN…see above.
    IAD…DCA all the way.
    LAX…you’d have to be crazy to even layover there. Always LGB, if you can help it. For that matter, fly to SAN and avoid LA.
    MCI is usually empty.
    MCO is about as close to getting it right as a big US airport will get.
    MIA…FLL is there for a reason.
    MSP gets A for effort.
    ORD is generally, if unspectacularly, shitty. MDW is more coventient, but scheduling isn’t always favorable.
    PHL is staffed with Philadephians…good enough, with occasional dumbshit moments.

    With foreign airports, it’s almost always the same…everything is fine until there’s a problem, at which point it usually turns into a fcuking disaster.

  58. red_pill says:

    Oslo, Norway has the cleanest, most modern and efficient airport I’ve been to. well-designed too, see

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/gallery/2009/aug/13/best-design-airport-terminals#/?picture=351607412&index=10

    More proof that the Scandinavians have no idea what they’re doing, I guess.

  59. VF says:

    I’m a frequent visitor to the site and a frequent traveler for business and leisure.

    I have to say that this post by Barry caught me by surprise, i fly out of JFK about once a month on a slow month sometimes 3 to 4 times on a busy month. Never, not ever have i had an issue at JFK.

    Honestly, this just sounds like a rich man not being able to get his way every time. LAG is by far worse than JFK.

    ~~~

    BR: Well, the sentiment in comments are running about 10 to 1 against you about JFK.

    On a personal note, I find your comment offensive;

    And if I were really wealthy, I wouldn’t be flying commercial!

  60. theorajones says:

    I missed the only flight of my life because the Delta Terminal at JFK is so horrific. I’m a frequent traveler, I understand how to navigate an airport. I think that’s what hurt me here–I kept expecting things to make rational sense. First, my cabbie got lost in the terminals. Second, once I got to the right terminal it took me literally twenty minutes to find the right door–they had all these entrances, and they were all blocked off! Then once I got in there, it was so packed with people and poorly laid out that I couldn’t find a damn automatic ticket machine. And then I had to re-book my flight and because the terminal is built like a damn concrete bunker, I couldn’t get a reliable cell phone signal. Standing on line to re-book wasn’t an option: there were easily 75 people in line in front of me waiting to check baggage. Insane.

    And you know how a first class ticket gets you to the front of the security line? Not so much at JFK’s Delta terminal. Not only do you have to plow your way through the regular line to get to the first class security line (getting hostile glares and dodging the occasional thrown elbow from the furious coach passengers you are cutting in line), but when you get there security totally ignores you for 10 minutes! And pre-boarding? HA!

    Oh, and their terminal’s air conditioning is woefully inadequate. Waiting for my flight, I was absolutely sweltering, and I’m a person who sets the hotel thermostat to the high 70′s. I thought the guy next to me in a business suit was going to kill himself.

    JFK is absolutely the pits. I live in freaking Brooklyn, it’s the closest airport to my house, and I won’t use it. It’s always a nightmare. Though I hear the Jet Blue terminal is decent.

  61. ashpelham2 says:

    There’s a lot of bad places to fly in the US, no doubt. I’ve not flown internationally, so I can’t offer an opinion there, but I judge airports based on their ease of entry and exit, and average delays. Newark wins my award for rediculous, stupid delays. I’ve personally sat on the tarmac longer in Chicago, in the dead ass cold of winter, with the specatacular view of that tower of babel, the Sears Tower.

    Anyone give a shout out to Charlotte, for it’s high fares and uncanny ability to make security a nightmare? Just try flying in or out on a Monday morning…Atlanta is busy, but I’ve always gotten in and out pretty quickly. Just my experience. Not real fond of DFW either, again, always seems to be crappy weather when I’m coming or going in there.

    Anybody fly to or from Des Moines? Small airport, but lots of traffic. Place looks and feels like a hospital.

  62. AHodge says:

    Small is beautiful small and rich better
    Santa barbara, hilton head Naples
    jackson hole before they building the new terminal
    ohare and atlanta right up there in US for bad design, delays, nothing working like long escaltors, redeemed a little by newer cleaner. air travel inc the planes in running for least customer friendly bus. on the planet.
    shittiest in or out of US? you havent experienced heathrow esp recent ash disaster, avoid if you can.
    for the emerging (never will emerge) it would be hard to beat Lagos where you hire an airport guide to pay the right level of bribes and i got arrested anyway.

  63. AHodge says:

    how about a us airport food contest? as they pay 80% of gross margin in rent, think how delicious that is?

  64. rustum says:

    In terms of quick access, DFW airport is great.

  65. TheUnrepentantGunner says:

    Atlanta is possibly worse than JFK, though the median outcome for JFK is particularly bad. I feel that everytime I have to connect through Atlanta I might as well just write off the 2nd leg of the trip. And the cabstand in ATL is truly terrible.

    Pittsburgh is probably the best airport in the eastern US. Free Wifi, okayish dining options, spacious (they were a hub 10 years ago maybe?) and modern, with surprisingly little traffic. Even when i was stuck sleeping in the terminal once, I was OK with the experience.

  66. Gatsby says:

    Airports in Canada, Eurpoe and Asia make airports in the US look like a third-world country airports. Can we please do something with O’Hare, especially the 1970s “Dr. Who-style” tunnel between terminals.

  67. Low Budget Dave says:

    From my experience, I would have to say that Vegas is the worst airport in the U.S., based purely on the performance of the security guards. I watched as a security guard threatened to arrest my mom for carrying a two inch long hard plastic safety scissor. His theory was that it was a six inch long blade, and too dangerous to be allowed on an airplane. (Never mind that she bought it at the Orlando gift shop so she could have scissors that met the flight safety requirements. )

    This is an elderly lady, using a mobility assistance walker, explaining to a security guard that his boyfriend has been lying to him about what constitutes six inches. I almost passed out from trying not to laugh.

    He actually drew his gun. I am not making this up. A six foot DHS employee drew his gun on a little old lady, and threatened to arrest her and me (or shoot us, I suppose) if either one of us said another word.

    I have not been back to Vegas since then, and I might not ever go back. Imagine how many people have decided to go on a cruise instead of Vegas because of that one idiot. Maybe the Chamber of Commerce will give him some award. From Miami.

  68. Marc P says:

    One thing that has always fascinated me about the airlines is that it seems every airport in the country has the same Eames-designed chairs in the terminals.

    http://www.360bigsky.com/images/eames-airport2.jpg

    What’s up with that? It is not that I dislike the chairs, I just can’t figure out how so many airports could have purchased identical decor. Some massive deal from Bob’s Discount Airport Chair Warehouse?

    I could write a book about how the airlines still haven’t learned the phrase “product differentiation.” Nearly 40 years after deregulation they all seem to work hard to offer identical products and services, from nearly identical plane interiors, to nearly identical ticketing and websites, equally bad (or non-existent) food, being late 1/3 of the time, all the way to identical 50-year-old chairs at the gates.

    [/rant=off]

  69. Marc P says:

    To rileyx67 at July 27th, 2010 at 6:01 am:

    I understand your perspective as a 40+ year United pilot. However, if I can state this diplomatically, your point of view seems to be the standard industry lament of how things used to be better in the good old days of oligopoly. Every industry has a particular viewpoint and culture, and the airlines’ culture is to constantly attempt to get back the days of oligopoly and high prices. Best of luck to you.

    If you want a pure example of how competition improves an industry, look no further than Mexico. Multiple new carriers have started service since 2005, and prices have dropped, flight choices have increased, the planes are newer, cleaner, better run, and have fewer problems than the legacy carriers. The best ontime score in North America (and practically the world) is Volaris, running around 95% on-time.

    In the U.S. an airline can be late 30% of the time and still be considered top of the class. In America the carriers are so bent by their insular point of view that they argue with a straight face that they should be permitted to keep customers captive on the planes, on the ground, without food or water, for hours at a stretch. In any other business imprisoning a customer would lead to rapid police intervention. U.S. carriers have become the world’s example of spectacular failure of operations management.

  70. AHodge says:

    mark p
    the picture reminded me–
    these are the chairs with divider ridges so that you cannot lie down after learning of your extended unplanned stay.
    your genius airport planners working on your comfort, when they are not completing vendor shakedowns and figuring how to stuff more useless storefronts in your way, ramp up the storefronts and spreading out the gates, and send more wagons for fat people careening and beeping down the corridors

  71. AHodge says:

    dam low budget
    like to meet your mom, that the best legal dissing of a security guard ever. no wonder he drew his only useful gun

  72. Darkness says:

    More proof that the Scandinavians have no idea what they’re doing, I guess.

    Copenhagen’s airport sure is. Dear Göd, what an awful place. They tried to go “smoke free” but their idea of this are these periodic little tables, off the side of a narrow corridor that creates a curtain of the most noxious blue haze that everyone must pass through. I’ve never been a smoker, but I’m amazed how much better some country’s cigarettes smell than others. The Danes are apparently killing themselves off young with a blend of pig dung and Satan’s old socks.

  73. pschaeffer says:

    JFK is AWFUL. So is Paris-Charles de Gaulle. Surprised that Heathrow hasn’t gotten more trashing. It deserves it. LAX IS wretched.

  74. pschaeffer says:

    By the way, I go through Newark from time to time. Much better than JFK. A gem by comparison. Clean, modern, relatively efficient. I love the place.

    Traffic to and from the city is a problem.

    Solution? Fill in New York Harbor and use it as an airport.

    Serious solution? Either upgrade Newark or tear down one of JFK or LaGuardia and build a real airport on the same site. It would take years (5), but might actually work.

    My preference? Demolish JFK and rebuild on the same site. Keep only the name.

  75. dirge says:

    You really should make it to the Northwest sometime.

  76. maspablo says:

    JFK is a nightmare , I never understood how i can deplane , go thru immigration , get luggage and go thru customs , catch a cab to Marina Bay, check in and be in my hotel bed usually getting massage (after showering) in under 60 minutes in Singapore. but , when flying domestically into JFK and checking luggage and landing at midnight , I hardly am ever seated in my cab within 60 minutes . and dont even get me started on landing international into JFK , that will take at least 2 hours to reach the midtown tunnel . JFK /LAX /MIA worst SIN/Hong Kong best in my experience

    NY/USA has to do something , its embarrassing

  77. kaleberg says:

    I used to live in Queens, and the whole family would drive down to Idlewild and watch the jets take off and land. There was usually a crowd of people under the flight path with cameras and telescopes. It was quite a scene. They’d put us all in jail now what with some of those scopes looking like anti-aircraft missles. We would also go and wander around the airport. The international terminal was particularly fun since there was an observation gallery for watching people go through customs. It was amazing the stuff people packed. It was better than television. Now and then there would be something contraband, usually some of those little liquor filled chocolates, and the customs guy would make a big point of confiscating it and dumping in a special trash can. There was some pretty futuristic architecture to drive around, especially the TWA “wings” building which is now home to Jet Blue. All told, a few hours at JFK could be a lot of fun, especially if you weren’t flying anywhere. We have more sophisticated tastes now.

    Since then JFK took a bullet to his brain and they renamed the airport after him. I flown there a few times, mainly Jet Blue. I’ve definitely been to worse airports. It would be nice to rebuild, but Denver tried that and look at what they got. Personally, I like my local airport CLM. It has scheduled flights but no TSA. The cinnamon rolls are pretty good. You can connect at BFI to Portland. I’ve sort of wondered if there isn’t a secret network of little puddle jumper airlines that would let you fly across country without once having to pass through a metal detector. It probably doesn’t exists, but one can dream.

  78. madcow6993 says:

    The remodel of the Bay Runway at JFK was supposed to make things better. However, as a former employee of jetBlue most of my experience with JFK was T5. I have plenty criticisms of my former employer but I believe a lot of the flying experience has to do with the airline. I live in Salt Lake City, a hub for Delta. In theory I should be able to hit all of Delta’s other hubs without a connection but rather if I want to go to New York they price that flight 3 times cheaper than a direct flight. We need to get rid of spoke of hub models except out of necessity for small regionals. A forced connect through Atlanta or Minnesota just increases needless traffic.

  79. Steve Casburn says:

    I went through the Delta terminal at JFK in 2005 and was saddened to think that it is the first sight of the USA for countless non-Americans.

    A great book about the physical architecture of airports: “Naked Airport” by Alastair Gordon. A key point of Gordon’s is that the lead time for building a new airport (or extensively renovating an existing one) is so long, and evolution in the ideal model of air service is so quick, that when a new airport is opened, it is inevitably already obsolete.

    Amazon link to the book: http://www.amazon.com/Naked-Airport-Cultural-Revolutionary-Structure/dp/0226304566/

  80. Craig94 says:

    Newark.Worst airport i’ve been in (And I’ve been in Heathrow twice!)

    Myself,My Father and My Cousin flew from Edinburgh to Newark for a connecting flight to Indianapolis.We knew that we had a 4 hour wait but our flight was delayed by an additional 2 hours.So we had 6 hours in the domestic terminal at Newark,It was horrible especially since we’d been on the go since 7am British time.It was not a nice place,So many people in such a small place. We then got on the flight to Indy and i felt freezing.

    However,When i returned to Newark to go to NYC For 2 nights,The sun was shining and when i got the Terminal at Newark i saw a plane take off in front of my eyes and it left me thinking ‘Well this is going to be a big city’

    I was so right,NYC Is an amazing place.

    It’s just Newark that’s a shitehole.