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Newark, New York and Chicago Rank Worst on Airport Misery Index

TravelPulse logo TravelPulse 2/4/2020 Laurie Baratti
a close up of a sign: Chicago O'Hare International Airport © iStock/Getty Images Plus / Tashka Chicago O'Hare International Airport

While traveling can be a wonderfully fulfilling and transformative experience, the process of getting to your destination is often a less appealing prospect—especially depending upon which particular airports you’ll be using for your departure and possible connections.

From check-in and baggage hassles to passing through airport security and enduring extended wait times once you reach your concourse, travel time spent at the airport can be a harrowing experience.

If you get airport anxiety while contemplating your next trip, a newly released study may help you to hedge your bets when it comes to avoiding the most traumatic hubs from which to fly. has ranked the United States' busiest airports based upon the overall degree of misery that travelers can expect to endure while passing through. The exercise revealed some interesting trends, including that Northeastern U.S. airports turn out to be among the most torturous for travelers.

Researchers based their findings upon data collected from 84 American airports having at least 10,000 departures annually, focusing on six factors in particular: flight cancellation rate, flight delay rate, tarmac delay rate, average length of delays, severe delay rate (those lasting an hour or longer) and security wait time during rush hour.

The information under scrutiny came from the Department of Transportation, collected from January through July 2019; except for data on security wait times, which was pulled from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) app in October 2019.

Each airport then received a score of between zero (worst) and 100 (best) according to metrics compiled from the collective data.

According to information collected by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, those traveling in 2019 had about a one-in-five chance of late arrival for their flight, and two percent of the year’s flights ended up being canceled altogether.

Some incriminating factors are, of course, beyond the actual airport’s control. Because the weather plays a major factor in determining the extent of travelers’ travails, colder climates and snowy seasons in the nation’s northeast greatly contribute to unavoidable delays and cancelations.

The absence of such conditions elsewhere largely explains why airports in Hawaii and America’s westernmost states ranked as the least miserable (i.e., most pleasant) in the country.

Based on these criteria, the nation’s worst airports include:

  1. Newark Liberty International: Newark, NJ
  2. Chicago O’Hare International: Chicago, Il
  3. LaGuardia Airport: New York, NY
  4. Dallas/Fort Worth International: Dallas-Fort Worth, TX
  5. Boston Logan International: Boston, MA

The five least miserable airports can all be found in the western U.S.:

  1. Kahului Airport: Kahului, HI
  2. Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International: San Jose, CA
  3. Daniel K. Inouye International: Honolulu, HI
  4. Spokane International: Spokane, WA
  5. Portland International: Portland, OR

Interestingly, the size and operational volume of airports themselves did not seem to appear to play a major role in the level of misery inflicted upon flyers.

For example, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the nation’s busiest, and Seattle Sea-Tac Airport in Washington state (the eighth-busiest) both fell into the bottom portion of the Misery Index.

The full rankings and further details about ValuePenguin’s Misery Index can be found here.

Related video: Avoid Buying These Overpriced Items at the Airport (Provided by Buzz60)


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