Worst US airports revealed — these facilities are ‘dated’ and ‘inefficient’

The William P. Hobby Airport in Houston and the newly transformed, $4 billion Terminal B in New York's LaGuardia Airport are the only US airport properties to score five stars in Skytrax's ratings.
The William P. Hobby Airport in Houston and the newly transformed, $4 billion Terminal B in New York's LaGuardia Airport are the only US airport properties to score five stars in Skytrax's ratings.

Houston, we have a problem — with everyone else.

The William P. Hobby Airport in Houston, Texas, and the newly transformed, $4 billion Terminal B in New York’s LaGuardia Airport are the only US airport properties to score five stars in Skytrax’s ratings of airports across the world.

Hobby was lauded for its “excellent customer experience,” “broad range of seat choices” and “upgraded interior décor finishes,” among other stellar amenities, while LaGuardia’s Terminal B won acclaim from Skytrax for its “spacious interiors, floor-to-ceiling windows, inspiring public art features, and iconic restaurants and shops.” LaGuardia earned four stars overall.

Luckily, the UK-based Skytrax didn’t award any US airports a meager one or two stars, but it gave more than three dozen US airports the “fair or average” three-star rating, from Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport to Washington Reagan National Airport.

The five busiest US airports each received three stars — based on a rubric that includes terminal design, cleanliness, passenger flow, seating, washrooms, family facilities, entertainment, WiFi, shopping, and dining, among other features.

Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport

Passengers are seen at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Dec. 20, 2021. REUTERS
Passengers are seen at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Dec. 20, 2021. REUTERS

The world’s busiest airport since 1998, the Atlanta airport got dinged for “inefficient and insufficient immigration and security staffing levels.” Skytrax was also unimpressed with its shower facilities, baggage delivery times, seating near check-in, and quiet/relaxation areas.

It’s hard to relax when just this year alone, an Atlanta passenger went on a profane rant about her period and a fired airport coffee shop worker was caught on video attacking two of her former managers.

The Atlanta airport, however, did earn praise for its “excellent range of fast-food options as well as motivated and engaging Information staff at key points in the airport.”

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

DFW — the world’s second-busiest airport in 2022 by passenger traffic and the largest hub for American Airlines — didn’t score well with its food, beverage, and shopping options for the parts of the airport accessible to the public and for its business-class lounges, quiet/relaxation areas, and transfer signage. It did get back pats for its efficient terminal layouts, immigration process, and staff service.

Airplane passengers line up for security screenings at Denver International Airport on June 20, 2019. Getty Images
Airplane passengers line up for security screenings at Denver International Airport on June 20, 2019. Getty Images

Denver International Airport

The Denver airport set a record last year by welcoming more than 77.8 million passengers, but Skytrax claims that these travelers struggle to move through the airport. Transportation Security Administration processing is “often a slow pinchpoint in the departure process,” Skytrax argues, while “access to the B and C concourses is via the people mover train only.”

Some have even taken to completing running challenges within the airport.

DIA transportation, specifically its rail service to downtown Denver and its bus, taxi, and rideshare programs, and the airport’s “unique tented roof structure and architecturally impressive Jeppesen Terminal” did win approval.

Chicago O’Hare International Airport

Skytrax notes that O’Hare is “conveniently connected” to the rest of Chicago by trains, albeit the “L” has been plagued by crime, significant headways between trains, and filth as of late. Nevertheless, it’s the inconvenience of traveling between O’Hare terminals, the “relatively dated” terminal interiors, and the “poor” range of seating that caught Skytrax’s attention.

Air traffic is seen on the runway at Los Angeles International Airport on Dec. 25, 2022. AP
Air traffic is seen on the runway at Los Angeles International Airport on Dec. 25, 2022. AP

Los Angeles LAX International Airport

While the Tom Bradley International Terminal garners recognition for its “excellent natural light, appealing design features” and “good range” of food and beverage choices, accessing LAX remains problematic.

“Drop-off roadways are often congested. Security and immigration standards are frequently slow and inefficient,” Skytrax grumbles.

Travelers line up to enter a security checkpoint at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Dec. 23, 2023. Getty Images
Travelers line up to enter a security checkpoint at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Dec. 23, 2023. Getty Images

Also receiving three stars are “inconsistent” New York John F. Kennedy International Airport and “slow” Newark Liberty International Airport.

“The infrastructure for the airport is dated, and post-security the facilities are limited for passengers,” Skytrax lamented about Newark.