Best and Worst Airports to Find a Date
Annie Balart was flying home to New Orleans when a fellow traveler caught her eye at the airport’s baggage claim area. “We did an equal amount of checking each other out from across the carousel,” she admits. The guy, Wes Michaels, decided that if their bags came out at the exact same time, he would work up the nerve to talk to her. Despite the long odds, the suitcases spilled onto the belt next to each other. An airport connection was born.
The airport may seem an unlikely place to find romance. After all, busy passengers are usually more concerned with making their flights than in striking up a conversation. But once storms roll in and planes get grounded—suddenly, those coffee shops, lounges, and bars lining the terminal start doubling as potential meeting spots.
A chance encounter can certainly make being in travel limbo more interesting, and according to a study conducted by Sperling’s Best Places on behalf of the men’s grooming company Axe, your likelihood of hitting it off with a fellow passenger depends on what city—and more specifically, what airport—you’re in.
By examining weather pattern data, delayed-flight statistics, and a range of amenities at 35 airports worldwide—across North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Middle East—researchers found that six of the date-friendliest airports are located right here in the U.S., while the remaining four are in Europe. Other airports like Singapore and Sydney either got their passengers airborne faster or lacked the kind of diversions Americans and Europeans have come to expect.
Some of the flirtiest terminals, like San Francisco International, are ranked higher in overall satisfaction by visitors and have more restaurants, bars, bookstores, retail shops, and club lounges per traveler than their counterparts elsewhere (SFO also boasts an aquarium and several museum exhibits). So whether you’re facing a layover or a weather delay (and historical data indicate there’s a real possibility that here, you will), there’s no shortage of venues to pass the time and meet someone—and, hopefully, jet off with their contact info.
Conversely, at the 10 international airports with the best weather, best on-time departure record, and fewest outlets for itinerant flirting, the only thing you may have time to pick up is your luggage. Charlotte Douglas International, for example, failed to impress with its selection of social venues, so it’s probably a good thing that rain or fog rarely keep you on the ground for long.
Of course, every airport offers travelers some chance at finding love. Take Annie Balart and Wes Michaels: two years after their luggage linkup, they cut their wedding cake. It was designed in the shape of the New Orleans airport’s baggage-claim area.
Best Airports#1. Liberty, Newark
A whopping number of flights are delayed at Liberty (an ironic name, considering the circumstances), which means every third person you see will probably end up at one of the terminal’s 52 restaurants and bars. If you have more than a few hours to kill (or your flight’s canceled altogether), go for broke and ask your love interest to head into Manhattan for a proper date.
Best Airports#2. John F. Kennedy, New York
True, this may be considered one of the world’s ugliest airports, and you’ll be delayed an average of 65 minutes every time you fly—but at least JFK offers some fairly engaging ways to pass the time: there’s a beer garden, wine bar, and four spas. But for true pick-up potential, nothing beats JetBlue’s T5 terminal. This moodily lit space practically seems designed with flirting in mind.
Best Airports#3. Philadelphia
If you pass through Philly, you may find more than just brotherly love. This airport has more than 160 shops and restaurants to keep passengers busy while they wait—and considering that the visibility outside is obscured 247 days of the year, waiting is pretty much the name of the game. If you do get stuck, make a beeline for the B and C terminal connector, where the bulk of the amenities are located.
Best Airports#4. Dallas/Fort Worth
You’ll find 14 airline clubs located across DFW’s five busy terminals, and in our humble experience, they’re often the best, most relaxed spots to strike up a casual conversation, since you’ll likely be delayed here. If you’re not already a member, nearly all clubs offer day passes that afford you access to the bar, snacks, business centers—and some pretty attractive frequent fliers.
Best Airports#5. Minneapolis/St. Paul
You can guess why this Midwest hub beat out so many others to hit the No. 5 spot: 85 snow days each year, 38 days with thunderstorms, and 96 with fog add up to an incredible number of delays, cancellations, and missed connections. Bizarrely, this airport boasts not one, but four gaming arcades, so challenge another stranded soul to a game of pinball or Ms. Pac Man—or opt for more grown-up entertainment at one of the terminal’s 16 bars or breweries.
Best Airports#6. San Francisco
Some of us may leave our hearts in San Francisco, but sometimes, that’s because we couldn’t get out of the airport. Since so many flights are delayed, passengers can take advantage of incredible extras such as museum galleries, spas, reading rooms, and even spiritual reflection and meditation areas. Summoning up one’s inner calm may be a good idea for asking someone out—and it also can be helpful later if you’re asked to rebook your flight.
Best Airports#7. Charles de Gaulle, Paris
If you want to find l’amour overseas, this Parisian gateway may provide your best opportunity. Charles de Gaulle may be one of the world’s ugliest, but nearly a quarter of all flights are delayed due to poor visibility, so while you’re waiting, grab a glass of Bordeaux (and try out your best French pick-up lines) at one of the wine bars located throughout the three terminals. You and your new sweetie may need the drink: this airport cancels nearly 4 percent of its outgoing flights.
Best Airports#8. O’Hare, Chicago
O’Hare is the world’s second busiest airport (after Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta), so you’ll have ample opportunity to people-watch as you wait. And wait. And wait. One out of seven flights is delayed 45 minutes or more, and low visibility nearly the whole year-round means you’re probably not getting up in the air anytime soon. Commiserate with a fellow passenger over a pint of suds—there are breweries and pubs aplenty at ORD.
Best Airports#9. London Heathrow Airport
Sure, Britain’s notoriously dreary weather may help keep planes and passengers grounded, but that’s not the only reason this hub hit the top 10. Heathrow rated the second highest among European airports for amenities. Despite it being one of the world’s ugliest airports, you’ll find restaurants with runway views, top-of-the-line shopping, and ultramodern club lounges.
Best Airports#10. Rome Fiumicino Airport
By far, no major airport in the world cancels more flights than this one—and those flights that eventually take off are delayed more than one-third of the time. At least you can browse through some unique Italian fashion boutiques while you’re stranded. Even if you don’t score any bargains on Armani and Gucci, you could pick up something—or someone—you like even better.
Worst Airports#1. Phoenix Sky Harbor
Normally, 364.9 days without snow and an 81 percent on-time success rate would be considered a good thing. If you’re single and looking, however, those cheery stats are enough to make you want to divert somewhere more promising…like Pittsburgh. If you do get stuck, try hitting the Bone Yard outside Terminal 4: doggie-walking parks like this one can be prime real estate for friendly pickups.
Worst Airports#2. Madrid-Barajas
Madrid-Barajas may be architecturally stunning, but it appears that the designers left one important factor out of the equation: amenities. With just 30 restaurants and cafés servicing one of the globe’s most highly trafficked airports, you won’t find much of a scene in which to meet other singles.
Worst Airports#3. Los Angeles
Hot weather and cold-shouldered celeb types: that’s what makes LAX such a poor spot for snagging a date. Surprisingly, the restaurants here consist primarily of fast-food joints, so unless you put the moves on at one of eight Starbucks and four McDonald’s outposts, you might not have another opportunity.
Worst Airports#4. Charlotte Douglas
This US Airways hub doesn’t impress with its selection of dining establishments, which are mainly of the grab-and-go variety—perhaps the impersonal nature of its main food court doomed it to get one of the worst amenity ratings in the bunch. That coupled with an impressive on-time departure record (79 percent) means you likely won’t score any digits on your next trip.
Worst Airports#5. Dubai International
Much like the city that it services, the Dubai airport doubles as a massive high-end shopping mall. You get incredible amenities under one enormous roof (Terminal 3 has the largest architectural footprint in the world) but no time to enjoy them—in the desert, flights aren’t often delayed due to snow and rain.
Worst Airports#6. McCarran, Las Vegas
If you want to get lucky in Vegas, we wouldn’t suggest trying your hand at the airport. Not only does this destination get some incredible weather—just 13 days of rain per year—but McCarran is so alluringly close to the Strip, anyone stranded here is probably going to make a break for the nearest casino.
Worst Airports#7. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Surprisingly, the major amenity this airport lacks is coffee shops (Amsterdam itself has no such issue), so you probably won’t be locking eyes with anyone over a latte. If you’re lucky enough to meet your soul mate here, Schiphol offers four different wedding packages that allow you to get married under its roof. Not only will out-of-town guests know where to find you, but you’re guaranteed to make your honeymoon flight.
Worst Airports#8. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta
It already ranks as one of the world’s ugliest airports and has an awful record for on-time departures; now this hub ranks as one of the poorest spots for chatting up fellow passengers. Reason No.1: it’s so massive that even if you’re delayed as you’re passing through (and there’s a 1 in 4 chance you will be), you’ll eat up most of that time just connecting between gates. Unless you can think of a cute pick-up line while you’re on the people mover, you’re out of luck.
Worst Airports#9. Toronto Pearson
Canadian airports get a lot of snow—up to 92 days per year—but at Toronto Pearson, there just aren’t enough amenities to keep stranded passengers occupied. The selection of bars and cafés is mediocre at best, and fewer watering holes mean fewer opportunities to get social. If you’re stuck, wander over to T1’s new installation of late Jurassic-era dinosaurs—it might just be odd enough to inspire a conversation with a fellow onlooker.
Worst Airports#10. Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok
Opened in 2006, Suvarnabhumi is one of the busiest airports in Southeast Asia. It’s also one of the most efficient, boasting the second best on-time departure record of those examined. That’s good for your schedule, bad for romantic prospects. Since you’re not likely to have a delayed flight, get to the airport early. You’ll find a wealth of bars, high-end shops, and more restaurants than almost any other airport in the world.