Ranking the Best Airports in America
This past week The Points Guy rated the top 30 busiest airports in the US based on timeliness, accessibility, and amenities. When I saw the rankings I have to admit I was pretty surprised. On their list Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airports got the top spot even though it didn’t take the top spot in any category. I have flown through Phoenix a number of times (even 4 times in one day last year), and it wouldn’t rank in my top 5 best airports in America.
Because I didn’t agree with the list I thought I would do my own analysis of the 30 busiest airports in America and see how they stacked up. I found that it was hard to get data to do this analysis. There was plenty of data for timeliness at each airport, but that about it. I ranked each airport on chance your flight will go out (not cancelled), percent on-time departures, security wait time, restaurants and lounges per million flyers, and the total of driving time and public transportation time to airport from city center.
I got statistic on timeliness from the bureau of transportation’s page by looking at On-Time and Cancellations for the last year of available data (August 2015-August 2016). Honolulu International had the lowest chance of cancellation, while passengers flying out of Newark had the worst chance with more than 2.5% of flights being cancelled. Salt Lake City had the lowest percentage of delayed flights while LaGuardia was the worst with almost 25% of all flights being delayed.
The airport experience for most people begins at the security line. There were reports of numerous airports on the top 30 busiest list that threatened to “fire” TSA because security wait times were so out of hand (Atlanta). I used the TSA’s site showing the last 25 reported wait times at each airport removing duplicates within an hour of each other. Based on that recent (crowd sourced) data, Honolulu International had the shortest average wait time, while passengers flying from San Francisco had to wait the longest. This information does not count wait times longer than 2 hours and always gives time on a range, so I took the higher number in range for calculations.
To measure the selection of restaurant and lounges I took the number of restaurants per 1 million people. I don’t think this is a great way to measure airport experience because you could have 30 really good restaurants at one airport and 100 restaurant that mostly suck and the latter would gain the advantage for this ranking. However, I didn’t have time to fly to all 30 airports and try something at all 1958 restaurants, so it’ll have to do! Philadelphia had the most restaurants for the number of passengers that fly through the airport, while the busiest airport in the world, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport had the worst ratio with 93 restaurants!
Just like restaurants all lounges are not created equal, but there was no other way to numerically evaluate them. I looked at the number of lounges per million passengers and Washington Dulles had the highest lounge to passenger ratio with its 13 airline lounges. Baltimore and Chicago Midway do not have any lounges, while Charlotte came in at 28th with only 2 Admirals Clubs for its almost 45 million passengers per year!
To assess airport accessibility I added the average driving time to the quickest public transportation time. Phoenix and Boston topped the list with very quick and convenient locations with public transportation readily available. While Washington Dulles had a combined transportation time of over 2 hours.
With all of these categories taken into consideration, I had to weight them based on what I felt makes for a great airport. Most important to me was percentage of flights not cancelled and percent of on-time departures. I multiplied these categories by 6 and 5 respectively for calculations. Next most important was restaurants (4), then security wait time(3), and lounges(2). I did not add a weight to the commute time because it will vary based on where you live, where you are staying, etc. Below find the 10 Best Airports in the US
The 10 Best Airports in the US
10. Las Vegas McCarren International (LAS)
9. Miami International (MIA)
8. Tampa International (TPA)
7. Portland International (PDX)
6. Salt Lake City International (SLC)
5. Philadelphia International (PHL)
4. San Diego International (SAN)
3. Boston Logan International (BOS)
2. Honolulu International (HNL)
1. Phoenix Sky Harbor International (PHX)
Phoenix Sky Harbor comes in at the top spot by being consistently good across the board in these categories. 7 out of The Points Guy’s 10 are in my top 10, although only Phoenix is in the same spot. I’ll do a list of my 10 favorite airports in the US and it will definitely be different!
Would you evaluate the airport categories differently? Is there something else to consider when evaluating? Let me know in the comments below!
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