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This summer is estimated to be the busiest flying season ever, according to the trade group Airlines for America, which anticipates 4% more passengers will fly than last summer. Many of the 231 million travelers expected to fly will face flight delays and cancellations, long security and customs lines, and mediocre food as they wait in the crowded terminals.
NerdWallet analyzed recent data from the federal government, a crowd-sourced travel app and Yelp to find which airports are most likely to make your flying experience miserable this summer, factoring in flight delays, security and customs wait times and dining options. See the full analysis for the detailed methodology and the complete list of worst and best airports.
10 worst airports in the U.S. for summer travel
- Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
- LaGuardia Airport (LGA)
- Chicago O’Hare International (ORD)
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
- Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
- Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)
- Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)
- Miami International Airport (MIA)
- Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Why these airports are the worst
Flight delays. Flight delays account for 30% of an airport’s score — the heaviest weight in the analysis. The data covers flights delayed 30 minutes or more; an hour or more; and two hours or more. O’Hare, Midway, Newark, LaGuardia and Dulles stand out with the highest percentages of flights delayed. At Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports, for example, 20% of flights are delayed by over 30 minutes in the summer.
Canceled flights. Of the 50 airports analyzed, Miami International had the highest percentage of flights canceled, at 0.5%, compared with the national average of 0.3%.
Long lines. Delayed flights aren’t the only hassles that leave passengers waiting. Some of the longest TSA security lines are at Los Angeles, where travelers will wait 40 minutes on average. At New York’s JFK, the average traveler arriving from abroad in summer 2015 had to wait nearly an hour (55 minutes) at customs.
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Bad restaurants. Dining options at the three New York City-area airports — LaGuardia, JFK and Newark — have the lowest Yelp ratings. Restaurants at LaGuardia scored a 2.7 out of 5, JFK’s restaurants received 2.9 and and Newark’s restaurants got a 3.0 out of 5. The average rating among the 50 airports in our analysis was 3.6.
General mediocrity. The international airports in Dallas-Fort Worth and Philadelphia didn’t stand out as the worst in any one category, but these locations earned their place on the list because they are below average in most, if not all, data points.
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How to improve your experience at the airport
A few tactics can help you cope with the worst airports and maximize your enjoyment of the best — those include Honolulu International Airport; John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California; Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport in California; and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Some tips:
- Join TSA PreCheck to expedite security screening.
- If traveling abroad, enroll in Global Entry to help speed the process in customs lines.
- Visit airport lounges, which typically offer free Wi-Fi, beverages and other perks.
- Check out certain credit cards that will reimburse you for the cost of PreCheck or Global Entry, offer free lounge access and provide other travel-related perks.
Read more about the worst — and best — airports in the full report.