I spent the better part of the last three years of my life on airplanes and in airports. No really. For like three years straight I was on a plane almost every month (and multiple times a month) of the year. Some of it was business. Some of it was pleasure. All of it was annoying. Is it even possible to travel anywhere on earth anymore without suffering major annoyance at the hands of TSA? Maybe outer space? Nope. Even there you have people monitoring your bowel movements with biomedical censors.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those people who has issues with airplanes or airports in general. I'll hop on a plane in a heartbeat and with no trepidations. My parents made sure that by the time I was 12, I'd already racked up a couple hundred thousand miles. I used to thoroughly enjoy airports and the experience of flying.
Unfortunately, traveling is no longer the bliss it was once was. Post September 11th travel is an entirely different breed full of gratuitous hoops we're forced to jump through to sell us the idea that somehow flying is safer now than it's ever been so we will continue to buy plane tickets. Government, I'm on to you. As much as I'd like to think I have my airport navigation skills down to a science, there are some airports in this country that manage to mess up everything for everyone time after time. In my travels over the last few years, I put together my list of worst US airports just for kicks. I wrote this list one day when I was bored on the plane (which obviously means I was NOT flying Jet Blue at the time). Best airline ever. When I say "worse" I mean I truly DESPISE these airports and make all attempts not to fly in, out of, or through any of them. Enjoy!:
- ATL (Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport): Most people don't know that this is the busiest airport in the United States. Yes, it's even busier than blessed Chicago O'hare. I hate the fact that there are two entirely separate terminals at this airport in addition to the fact that you feel like you are walking FOREVER to get anywhere. The airport is freakishly huge. And if you're catching a plane from ATL don't even think about trying to get to the airport at the very last minute. It will not go well for you. Lastly, because ATL is such a hub, there is a much higher chance you will get stuck in Atlanta if something goes wrong weather-wise. Random fact: On two particularly bad experiences at ATL, I ran into Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King, III.
- ORD (Chicago O'Hare International Airport): Honestly, if it weren't for the umpteen delays, weather challenges and the fact that flying through Chicago means you have a 97% chance you will have a delay, I actually wouldn't mind O'Hare. As far as size and layout, it's not the worst ever. As far as reliability is concerned though, it earns an F. I avoid flying through O'hare like the plague. I'd even pay more money and layover in the cornfields of Iowa to avoid it. Also, the food courts are really really bad.
- IAD (Dulles International Airport): Dulles just plain sucks. It's far off the beaten path of anything near D.C., Virginia, or Maryland. It's a pain in the butt to get to, and they have this horrible tram, shuttle thing that is something out of 1965 to get you from one terminal to the next. The last time I flew into Dulles I swore I never would again. So far I've kept that promise. The DMV area has three major airports to choose from. Fly to/from Dulles as a last resort. Incidentally, DCA (Reagan National Airport) ranks on my list of top airports.
- PHL (Philadelphia International Airport): This airport has two main problems. One, it's overcrowded and desperately in need of a remodel. Like literally there are more flights coming in and departing than there are gates to park planes. It's a disaster and leads to inevitable delays. Two, it's the U.S. Airways hub. Need I say more? U.S. Airways is horrible on so many levels, I need not count the ways.
- LAX (Los Angeles International Airport): It's in L.A. Need I say more?
- JFK (John F. Kennedy International Airport): I'm not even sure if this place should be called an airport. Most days, it feels like Beirut on a really bad day. A series of endless outdoor construction projects combined with the fact that it's the convergence zone known as New York City just make it a nightmare. But hey, if it's your final destination, the breeze you get walking the streets of Manhattan can dry your tears. I will brave JFK anyday to get to the Big Apple. I love me some New York City.
- MIA (Miami International Airport): Flying into or through this airport is like a culture clash of epic proportions. Hanging out in the International terminal is pure comedy. Being that it's on the coast, MIA is wrought with vacationers coming and going to their choice Carribean or Mexican destination. It's just entirely too high traffic for me. High propensity for flight delays too.
- LAS (Las Vegas McCarran Airport): Las Vegas' airport might not be on a lot of other people lists, but it makes mine! It's not necessarily an airport known for massive delays, congestion or poor design. It makes my list because it's just plain sad. Am I the only person who finds it really sad to see slot machines along the walls of the airport as soon as you get off the plane? Besides the slot machines, LAS is a really old airport that needs some updating. All the restaurants look pathetic. Even the fine folks who work there look miserable. LAS is an airport that thoroughly depresses me every time. Thumbs down.
- SJC (Mineta San Jose International Airport): For starters, I can't believe this airport has the nerve to call itself "international" but whatever, I get why. This is probably an unlikely pick for most. Few people have even flown into SJC and usually opt for SFO. I thought about giving the 9th slot to Houston Bush International or St. Louis's airport, but I wanted to show that even small airports can be crappy too. SJC is just a poor excuse for an airport all around. Bad design, old building, nasty bathrooms, and horrendous parking lot. When you're that small, there really is no reason to be terrible.
- SEA (Seattle-Tacoma International Airport): This list is not complete without adding my home airport. Seattle is on many lists as having one of the best airports. I don't see it! This airport was my literal home away from home for two years and I still can't stand the place. Seattle's airport has been under construction in some way, shape or form for oh, the last 15 or so years. Honestly, it's never-ending. On any random day it can be totally packed and understaffed. The congestion has no rhyme or reason. One day getting through security is a breeze, the next day it takes 2.5 hours. I tried to figure out a pattern but it's hopeless. I find O'Hare to be far more consistent than Seattle.
Later this week I'll also write up my opinion on the best US airports. I'm interested to hear what airports you hate! Writing about airport hatred is cathartic. It's addicting. Did I miss any?
Finally, I would like to link to one of my favorite most hilarious essays written about a bad TSA experience (warning: some bad language, but well worth a read): My Penis May Be a Terrorist (from the blog "Witt and Wisdom")
(More at nykola.com)