We are pleased to bring you The Travel
Column, written fortnightly for "The Trinidad Guardian"
Top 5 Airports to Avoid!
Any frequent traveler will agree … no airport is perfect. A few
columns ago, I listed what I thought were the five in North America that
were the best; and promised that I would follow-up with those that I
considered the ones to avoid if at all possible. Here’s the bad news up
front; the #1 and #2 ‘worst’ airports are the two major gateways into the
US for travelers departing T&T! Every airport has its flaws, whether it's
confusing access roads, like Palm Beach International’s, or San Jose’s
(Costa Rica) frustrating evening fog or Las Vegas airport's annoying
cigarette smoke. Regular travelers understand these imperfections, and
simply must deal with them.
But the airports which deserve special recognition are those that are
so maddening that we go out of our way to avoid them, and we would rather
drive to the next major city than have to face them, plus we warn everyone
we know to stay away … far, far away!
Having not traveled as extensively, I’ve once again sought the help of
our colleague and travel expert, Christopher Elliot to help decide on
those airports you may wish to most avoid.
In a recent customer satisfaction survey, J.D. Power and Associates
concluded that some major US airports didn't do very well, but their
survey results were vague, only saying that the airports rated
Another survey comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which
rates airports by their on-time record. These results are only slightly
more helpful than those offered by J.D. Power. A quick glance indicates
that at problem airports about 20% of all flights arrive and depart
more than 15 minutes late. Now isn’t this something we all already knew!
Using available data and his own experiences, Mr. Elliot has come up
with a list of possibly the five worst airports.
- New York's three major airports:
1a. Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR);
1b. LaGuardia Airport (LGA);
1c. John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).
It's a three-way tie for first! All three are pretty awful airports
any way you look at them. Newark is an enormous construction site, and
considered by many a dreadful, disorganized mess of a terminal. There's
an almost-constant traffic jam in front of JFK, and it’s astounding that
recently another terminal was opened, in the hopes that this would
somehow make things better. But LaGuardia is in a class by itself, with
its dark terminals, predictable delays and reports of lax security. Even
New Yorkers avoid this airport despite its proximity to Manhattan. The
numbers tell the story … 20% of all flights arriving at LaGuardia and
Newark are late. At JFK, almost a quarter of arriving flights were
- Miami International Airport (MIA). Like New York's infamous
airports, Miami welcomes you with an almost-constant traffic jam. The
bottleneck on Highway 836, which parallels one of the airport runways,
seems to never end. Inside, the inconveniences continue. The check-in
areas are dark, noisy, and claustrophobia-inducing. Security lines are
almost always long. Once in the departure area, your eating options are
very limited; basically hot dogs or cinnamon rolls. The arrival areas
are also very confusing, often resulting in many a lost passenger.
- San Jose International Airport (SJC). This airport is just
slightly better than the New York airports with its on-time statistics —
about 17% of its arrivals and departures are more than 15 minutes late.
But most of the criticism of SJC is that it simply wasn't built to
accommodate the influx of travelers over the last 10 years and the
increase in security. Complains Sue Bradford-Moore, a retired public
servant who lives in San Jose. "Security lines have sometimes stretched
the length of a football field, through baggage claim and out past the
passenger pickup area." Sharon Wingler, a flight attendant for a major
airline, wonders: "How can such an upscale part of the US have an
airport without jetways? Also, there are no restrooms past security, so
think twice before ordering that cappuchino."
- Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Friends don't let
friends fly into LAX; this is the standard joke for Los Angeles locals.
LAX is simply too big for its own good, and nearby alternate airports
are being expanded to the point where they're almost big enough to be
classified as primary airports to accommodate this airport’s
overcrowding. Getting to this airport is difficult at any hour due to
the constant traffic, and the location is not at all suited to a
desperately needed expansion, as every inch of real estate around Los
Angeles International is built up. "LAX is oppressive," says frequent
traveler Pete Maclean. "It's dingy and dilapidated, noisy and
overcrowded, unfriendly and with poor facilities."
- Boston Logan International Airport (BOS). The usual complaints
here: big crowds, long lines, never-ending construction. Sounds
familiar? The on-time numbers at BOS are better than its competitors in
this category (the most recent numbers say only 15% of its flights left
late) and this has kept the airport from being ranked higher. Frequent
travelers generally prefer to use one of Boston's alternate airports,
Providence (Rhode Island), or even Hartford (Connecticut). "It's the
worst airport ever," agrees Jeffrey Filipov, a consultant who lives in
Boston. "It's old, squeaky, dirty, small, cramped, and has no facilities
Be sure to ask your professional travel agent to be creative in helping
you to avoid any airport of which you’re not particularly fond; you’d be
surprised at how many options you really have. However, all is not lost
for the airports mentioned here. Many of these airports have master plans
to provide solutions to some of these problems. So … even though the
terminals have problems, the problems aren't terminal!
Melanie Waddell, Director
March 13, 2003
That is a great article. I was surprised to see that
San Jose was included in the list. I live in Cupertino, California
and fly out of San Jose when I can. Now that the tech bubble has
burst the amount of traffic has decreased significantly. It would
seem that you were at the old terminal, the newer terminal does have
washrooms past security. Interestingly, the runway construction is
supposed to be finished in the near future, so that should assist
with a better air traffic flow.
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