I spend a lot of time in airports. I’ve likely been to every major airport in North America, most of them more than once, and a hell of a lot of the less than major ones. Not many of them are all that great, but some are sure a lot less great than the others. For my money - and counting only airports of a reasonably significant size in North America, because that’s my experience - the worst I’ve ever seen are:
Logan International Airport, Boston - Dirty, old, shitty restaurants and I’m always delayed there. There is nothing, nothing, nothing good about the inside of Logan.
But of course, what makes Logan truly horrendous is what’s on the outside. Logan is most famous for being nearly impossible to get to the airport, or to get anywhere FROM the airport, in a reasonable period of time because of the Big Dig, which cost $19 trillion and takes five hours to get anywhere and it might collapse and kill you. Even if you do get back into the airport, the road system is modelled after the Labyrinth that the Minotaur lived in. When people tell you to fly into Providence, Manchester or even Hartford, they aren’t shitting you; Hartford may be 2 hours away, but it’s invariably a quicker trip.
La Guardia International Airport, New York City - La Guardia is named after Fiorello La Guardia, who was the mayor of New York during World War II. I think they actually built this shitpile DURING World War II, because the food in the restaurants all looks like it’s been reheated since 1943 and the only airplanes that fit into this tiny airport are P-51 Mustangs. Not that they don’t try to get jets into it. In a hilarious twist, La Guardia is right next to Riker’s Island, so if your A-320 doesn’t quite make it off the tiny runway you might end up in a cell with Jim Bob The Hillbilly Rapist. Which would still be better than La Guardia’s departures lounge, which smells like feet and has chairs that would have given the Marquis de Sade a huge chubby.
Of course, La Guardia is also impossible to get to. The adjoining Grand Central Parkway is jammed from 8 AM to 7:59 the following morning every day ending in the letter Y. On paper it’s only ten or twelve miles to the Queens Midtown Tunnel to get into Manhattan right on 37th, but that’s going right thru Queens; in reality, you may as well be in Kinshasa.
Pearson International Airport, Toronto - Not really one terrible airport, it’s three. Yes, Pearson is actually three totally separate airports that share an airfield, I shit you not - completely different buildings, luggage systems, check in counters, even three rental car centers for every single rental car agency. I once - I swear to Christ Jesus I am not making this up - stood next to a lady who was trying to explain that her ticket had to be extended because her brother had just died, and they told her she had to go to one of the other “terminals” to get the right form, because her flight wasn’t from the one she was standing in, even though it was the same airline in, allegedly, the same airport! In a cruel twist, however, the three airports still are not big enough so half the time you have to take a bus to a “Satellite terminal” even worse than the three big ones. “Terminals” (actually Airports) 2 and 3 were built during the Bronze Age and the food and shops show it. Terminal 1 is newer but the food still sucks and it has the worst baggage return system in North America; if you’re one of only one or two planes arrived, you will still be lucky to get your bags in under an hour.
Oh, and is there a train linking the three terminals? Nope! Just a shitty old shuttle bus that might be by in ten minutes. Or an hour. Pearson is also the only major airport left in North America that I know of with NO wireless internet in the main departures areas. Honest to God; nothing at all. No business areas, either. Unless you’re first class, you’re fucked.
I have to agree 100% about Logan. I’ve lived in MA all my life, and it’s always been a hassle. ESPECIALLY since the ceiling tiles fell on that lady and the direct route to Logan was closed for so long. I do LOVE a detour that spits you out into the middle of downtown to fend for yourself without further signage.
Chicago O’Hare is hideous. Aside from being huge, connecting flights are routinely scheduled at opposite ends of the terminals; 45 minutes isn’t enough time to run from one end of the terminal to the next, take a shuttle bus, run through the next terminal, up a flight of stairs and find the correct gate. It’s as if no planning whatsoever went into it. Flights are constantly being bumped and delayed, and there’s nothing scarier than trying to touch down in snow AND fog. Hate it, hate it, HATE it. Which is a shame, because I love Chicago.
Charles DeGaulle in Paris is terrible. We went there on a connection flight from Indianapolis to Rome and got stuck there for hours because we missed the flight.
Why did we miss the flight? Well, the airport is a big circle. We get off our flight (which of course came in late) and ask, “how do you get to terminal x?” “You must take the train.” “But the train goes clockwise and the terminal is just a little bit in the counterclockwise direction…” “You must take the train.” We took the train.
We finally get off the train and ask again, “How do you get to terminal x?” "Vell, you have to go thees vay and zen… (a French speaking person walks by) How can I help you (I presume that’s what he said… I don’t speak French). By the time we got directions, our flight had already taken off. The next one was in eight hours. We went to figure out where we could stay for the duration. By the time the airport representatives decided to help us, much of that time had already expired so it was pointless.
Of all the airports that I have flown into, that one must be the worst.
I agree with O’Hare, LaGuardia and Logan. Ack. I love having to switch terminals at Logan in the summer - a nice muggy sprint, anyone?
I also want to throw in Houston, with the “little shuttle train that couldn’t” between terminals and no food or shops to speak of. (Hello, bookstore anyone?) I haven’t been there for a while (no surprise), so maybe it’s improved.
Chuck DeGaulle in Paris is nasty, hard to find a non-French newspaper or beer.
La Guardia? I prefer it to JFK. I go through JFK four times a year, enough to hate it and not enough to learn to deal with it. Twisty, turny, dirty with low ceilings. When you have a choice, pick Newark.
Jeddah is a nice city served by the kind of airport that (as Jeff Foxworthy would say) you can by oats by the scoop in. Same for Cairo. Huge tourist industry, nasty airport.
Nicest? Las Vegas is roomy and quirky. Guadalajara is well-lit and efficient. Rio is nice, but in Portuguese which always throws me for a loop a bit. Good food in Frankfurt.
Next time, ask this guy. He knows where all the good spots are.
As much as I like to complain about the location of Narita airport for Tokyo, at least it has frequent express trains that actually stop inside the terminals. Boston has a subway station on the Blue Line named “Airport” but it must be named for Jebediah Airport, the 17th-century frontiersman. Either that, or some committee member looked at the plans and said “On a quiet day, I wonder if you could hear a plane taking off from there,” at which the rest of the planning crew laughed so hard that they named the station ‘Airport’ to commemorate the joke. It certainly wasn’t because it’s anywhere convenient to Logan.
I hate DFW. It’s a major hub in an airport that wasn’t designed to be a major hub. And walking through it is like one of those old cartoons with the endlessly-repeating backgrounds of gates, the exact same advertisments, and lousy restaurants and stores.
I’m not a big fan of O’Hare, but the American terminal does have the best airport bookstore I’ve seen.
The wife votes for Dallas-Ft. Worth. I vote for O’Hare. Both are fraught with delays and hassles. Second place for both of us is Atlanta. I’ve never had a flight through Atlanta that wasn’t delayed in some way.
Favorite has to be SeaTac. Easy to into and out of, professional people all over the place, and easy to navigate.
Logan is awful. Charles de Gaulle is the worst European airport I’ve been to. Sheremetyevo (Moscow) is ugly, and one of my times through it, I got taken to a back room, asked a bunch of questions, and searched, so no doubt that also colors my impression of it. I’ve been through dingier, more run-down airports, but for one on the European continent, in a capital city, no less, it was awful.
I actually quite like O’Hare. I will agree that it’s too big, but there’s plenty of stuff to keep you occupied there if you have a long layover. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad experience in O’Hare. It’s not as good as my favorite airports – Schiphol (Amsterdam) or Heathrow – but it’s not even close to being as bad as Logan or Sheremetyevo. I also remember hating Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport quite a bit.
It’s commonly known that you will miss your flight if you get to Atlanta 2 hours before your flight. I’ve heard many stories of people going even 3 hours before and still missing them. Sure, all large airports have security measures, but 3+ hours seems ridiculous.
Hmmm - no mention of Kansas City yet so I’ll toss them into the fray.
Airport was designed to give small town access to the boarding gates, but this was all prior to today’s security screening needs. Now due to the layout, each set of gate waiting area has to have it’s own security screening instead of going through security once and have access to shops, food, & bars all within the secure area.
Waco. The Waco airport is the worst one of been in. Not because of size, although it’s tiny. No, it is terrible because it is the only airport I’ve ever been in here they forgot about the plane. Not only did they seemingly forget the purpose of airports, but none of them saw fit to even wonder where the damn plane was, or if there might be any passengers whom they should notify.