America's Best Airports
That’s the takeaway from the results of the World’s Best Awards reader survey. For this online slideshow, Travel + Leisure editors tallied votes for a range of 67 major and regional airports in six categories: flight delays; design; food and drink; shopping; check-in; and location. The online list is broader than the coverage in Travel + Leisure magazine's November issue, which emphasized big-city airports.
Related: Best and Worst Airlines for Flight Delays
If the slideshow results point to a trend, it’s that travelers appreciate smaller airports like Tampa International and Rhode Island’s T. F. Green Airport for the smooth check-in process and efficient layout. Some actually heading to Boston, an hour away, will opt to arrive at easy-breezy T. F. Green rather than congested Logan Airport.
Read on for more great U.S. airports that are taking the hassle out of flying.
No. 1 Portland International Airport, OR (PDX)
Portland’s airport knows how to impress. The overall favorite U.S. airport ranked No. 2 for design and for shopping, and third for food; try Stanford’s for fish tacos, burgers, or BLTs. PDX is also likely to keep you on schedule—it has an 87.5 percent on-time departure record, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. While its location was considered a shortcoming, Denver-based reader Jodianne Escalante acknowledges: “I like the light-rail to and from the airport.”
No. 2 Tampa International Airport, FL (TPA)
The kudos heaped on Tampa International by T+L readers might be enough to make you plan your next Florida trip around this West Coast city. The light-filled facility is ranked No. 3 for design. “With a layout designed for minimum walking, Tampa spoils you for other airports,” observes reader Judith Rogers of St. Petersburg, FL. A great location, better-than-average food options such as Cigar City Brewing, and shopping choices all contribute to Tampa’s airport appeal. Delays aren’t a problem, although check-in can sometimes be slow.
No. 3 Austin–Bergstrom International Airport, TX (AUS)
Barbecue, Tex-Mex, and a branch of Saxon’s Pub with live music are just a few of the reasons Austin beat out all other U.S. airports in the food category. But given that flight delays in Austin aren’t a big deal, it’s more likely that you’ll eat and run rather than linger over lunch. You’re likely to be among the happy fliers here, even if there are gripes about the airport’s location (ranked 25 out of 67).
No. 4 T. F. Green Airport, Warwick, RI (PVD)
Six miles south of Providence, T. F. Green snagged our No. 1 ranking for its accessible location and No. 2 for its smooth check-in process. Those are powerful enough endorsements that some travelers actually heading to Boston, an hour away, will choose easy-breezy T. F. Green over congested Logan Airport. The food and shopping may not be something to write home about, but chances are you won’t be stuck here long.
No. 5 Indianapolis Airport (IND)
The top-ranked airport in the Midwest, Indianapolis scores our No. 1 slot for its design, by HOK. The airport's soaring roof and walls of glass, completed in 2008, make you feel as if you're already flying when you arrive. Travelers should also appreciate the free Wi-Fi, ample charging stations, and rental cars that are within easy walking distance from the terminal.
No. 6 Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport (MSP)
MSP airport loses points for flight delays (ah, those winters), its location relative to downtown, and an often-slow check-in process. The upside is that it scored No. 1 for shopping, with more than 50 options including Authors Bookstore. The airport also came in at No. 2 for food; French Meadow Bakery & Café, for instance, serves organic dishes. Another perk: two kids’ play areas (one each in Terminal 1 and 2) with child-scale airplanes and control towers with slides.
No. 7 Boise Airport, ID (BOI)
Remember those days when your plane landed and took off on time? They live on in Boise, which ranked No. 1 for fewest flight delays. Readers gave it second place for location and third for check-in, suggesting that it’s the very model of an efficient airport. Admittedly, food and shopping are not good reasons to linger, but its small size and free Wi-Fi make it one of the easier airports to handle.
No. 8 Nashville International (BNA)
The hallmark of Nashville International is efficiency, with one of the lowest incidences of delays in our poll. It also scored well for its food, design, and shopping opportunities, all of which ranked 15th out of 67. Grab a bite at Whitt’s Barbecue and then take the kids to one of the three play areas in Concourses A, B, and C.
No. 9 General Mitchell International Airport, Milwaukee, WI (MKE)
Credit a great location, ease of check-in, and a minimum number of delays for making MKE one of the better midwestern airports. You can grab a bratwurst and a brew at a branch of Milwaukee’s beloved Usinger’s and then duck into Renaissance Books, which has new, used, and rare tomes and is arguably the best airport bookstore in the world. That said, the food and design categories lower the facility’s overall score.
No. 10 Charlotte Douglas International Airport, NC (CLT)
Dining at Beaudevin, a wine bar with small plates, is one of the pleasures of transiting through Charlotte and helps explain the airport’s No. 5 ranking for food. It also won high marks for shopping and design. (Rocking chairs in the atrium and free Wi-Fi are likely to be a hit.) T+L readers had concerns, however, about its location, check-in process, and the potential for delays.
No. 11 Orlando International Airport, FL (MCO)
Orlando got top scores for shopping and food and is a hit with kids of all ages. After all, this airport has a giant aquarium in the food court, plus a King of Kong video arcade, an automated tram to all gates, and plenty of shops selling theme-park merchandise. But delays remain a problem, according to readers. Worst still may be those interminable lines of folks in mouse ears; Orlando ranked a woeful 48 among 67 domestic airports in the survey’s check-in category.
No. 12 Portland International Airport, ME (PWM)
Check-in at Portland International is a veritable (sea) breeze, and the airport ranked No. 1 in that category. It came in at No. 10 out of 67 for location, being minutes from downtown and close to a highway that will take you Down East in a heartbeat. Given the poor scores for food and shopping, you’d do well to pick up a lobster roll and a pair of L.L. Bean boots before hitting the airport.
No. 13 Ted Stevens International Airport, Anchorage (ANC)
The upside to being the big airport in such a vast, lightly populated state is that Ted Stevens ranked favorably (No. 3) in the survey’s delays category. In other words, chances are you won’t need to spend much time in the terminal, which is decorated with an LED northern lights display, Native American art, and taxidermy. Ease of check-in and location also received high scores from travelers.
No. 14 Sacramento International Airport, CA (SMF)
The design of Sacramento International is what pleases most readers, who gave it a sixth-place ranking in that survey category. A world-class art collection also seems to lift the spirits of all who transit through here, and the charging stations liberally sprinkled at the gates are a practical touch. Flight delays are modest, and the airport gets middle-of-the-road scores for everything else, with the biggest complaints reserved for its location.
No. 15 McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas (LAS)
Sure, McCarran’s location, just minutes from downtown, is hard to fault. And shopping is also considered a plus—assuming the casinos have left you with something to spend. But the airport’s design ranked just above flight delays as an endemic problem, and the check-in lines are always an issue.