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Ask most people what they think about flying, and they’ll probably give you a look. That’s like asking who likes standing in line or paying for overpriced food.
With domestic passengers clocking an average 2,383 miles per round trip in 2015, up from an average 1,947 miles per round trip in 1979, according to Airlines for America, an airline trade group, consumers are traveling more than ever. And they’re paying good money: In 2015, Airlines for America found domestic passengers spent $363.98 on airfare, plus a reservation change fee of $10.11 and a bag fee of $12.80. In 1979, that number looked a lot different — $186.72 — and checking a bag cost only 44 cents!
Today savvy travelers want more for their money, and not just in terms of the airfare. Knowing which airports serve great food and streamline security check-in can also buy valuable time. Bonus points if said airport offers fewer delays and flight updates. Here, we’ll look at the best and worst airports in the U.S., as well as our picks for the best credit cards to pack in your suitcase.
To determine the best and worst airports in the U.S., Credit.com referred to the 2016 America Airport Satisfaction Study, conducted by J.D. Power. For more than a decade, the study has examined traveler satisfaction across North American airports large and medium by scrutinizing six key factors: terminal facilities; airport accessibility; security check; baggage claim; check-in/baggage check; food; beverage and retail.
The study is based on responses from 38,931 North American travelers who passed through at least one domestic or international airport with both departures and arrivals (excluding connections) over the past three months. It was conducted from January through October 2016 and comprised 36,465 responses in which travelers evaluated either a departing or arriving airport from their round trip experience. Each airport ranking is based on a 1,000-point scale.
The 5 Worst Airports in the U.S.
New York LaGuardia Airport
With a six-point drop in overall satisfaction in 2016, LaGuardia remains one of the least popular airports in the country, with a dismal 649 ranking. It’s due for a much-needed overhaul — several terminals are set to be rolled into one — however, the construction will likely create short-term headaches. Travelers can expect more delays due to aircraft not being able to move efficiently on and off the runways and overcrowding.
Newark Liberty International Airport
With its 669 ranking, Newark Liberty isn’t far behind LaGuardia. That’s partly due to its crowds and not-so-great ambiance. Fortunately, it’s undergoing a $120 million renovation that could elevate its culinary offerings. Star chefs like Alex Stupank, Dale Talde and Mario Carbone have already set up outposts, and Amanda Cohen, known for her work in the Lower East Side, just opened Thyme, an inventive vegetarian restaurant, where beverages are made with organic herbs and spices.
Philadelphia International Airport
There’s hope for Philly’s airport despite its low 688 ranking. The dining and retail experience at Terminal B is getting an upgrade, to the tune of $30 million. The airport’s public Wi-Fi has also been ranked as one of the fastest among U.S. airports, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal. As the airport continues to make such investments, business travelers can expect more improvements.
Chicago O’Hare Airport (Tie)
With nearly 65 million fliers passing through its domestic gates in 2016, O’Hare is one busy airport. It’s also notorious for delays — high winds caused hundreds of cancellations in January — which explains its poor 689 ranking. On the plus side, O’Hare is hosting a variety of foodie events to kick up its ambiance. Over the winter, “Ticket to Taste” will invite fliers to sample dishes from a number of vendors, while an airport version of Restaurant Week will offer cooking demonstrations, food sampling and discounts.
Boston Logan Airport (Tie)
With the same rating as Chicago O’Hare, Boston Logan has some work to do. The airport served fewer than 29 million passengers in 2011, according to a local news site, and that number has only gone up. However, the number of flights per day has fallen and flights tend to be overcrowded. The hope is that Logan will expand Terminal E to accommodate more international flights and parking. On the bright side, starting in February consumers can hail a car from Lyft — as long as they’re OK with paying a $3.35 fee, the same as traditional livery cars. Other services like Uber are negotiating similar agreements.
The 5 Best Airports in the U.S.
Portland (Ore.) International Airport
With its shiny 786 rating, Portland International Airport is doing something right. And that something would be offering lively dining options as opposed to the usual humdrum fare. House Spirits Distillery in Terminal C, for instance, serves up collaborations with notable Portland brands like Stumptown Coffee and Moonstruck Chocolate Co., while The Whole Bowl offers build-your-own veggie bowls and Elephants Deli grills up sandwiches alongside rotating entrees like chicken pot pie.
Tampa International Airport
The self-described “gateway to the west coast of Florida” boasts a perky 775 rating, thanks to a massive expansion, arts program and restaurant options. It’s also adding more flights: Starting June 4, Southwest Airlines will begin two new daily nonstop trips between Tampa and the Big Apple. According to Tampa Bay Times, Frontier added new routes to Cincinnati and Las Vegas. Air Canada Rouge saw an uptick in fliers after switching to a wide-body 767 on flights to Toronto.
Las Vegas McCarran Airport
With a stellar 759 ranking, McCarran remains busier than ever. Last year was a high point for the airport, with its passenger count reaching more than 43.7 million, according to Las Vegas Sun. Discount carriers like Spirit Airlines have particularly been a boon to Las Vegas fliers, expanding routes and carrying more than 2.9 million passengers in 2016, the Sun reported.
Orlando International Airport
Solid customer service has helped OIA earn its 751 rating. It’s a busy place, serving more than 42 million passengers annually, according to International Airport Review, a trade publication, and to streamline the process, it recently launched a helpful new app. Using the service, fliers can check transportation and parking options, view a flight status dashboard with notifications, and check terminal maps.
Miami International Airport
Last year, MIA broke its record for number of passengers, with 44.6 million fliers, South Florida Business Journal reported. It’s also embraced beacon technology with airport apps to improve travelers’ experience, which may explain its 750 rating. Not only do passengers have the ability to scan boarding passes and receive estimated walk times, real-time status updates, and dining suggestions based on their profile, they can get notifications for gate and baggage carousel changes, as well as options for sharing flight info.
How to Get More From the Airport
Knowing which airports are best to fly out of is one way to streamline your travel. But you can also get more for your money with an airline miles or travel rewards card. In this section, we’ll share a few of our favorites. For full details, be sure to check the card agreements, and if you haven’t checked your credit score, you can visit Credit.com to access two of them for free. Checking your score will not harm it in any way.
Our Picks for the Best Travel Rewards Cards
Card Highlights: Members earn an unlimited 2X miles for every dollar spent, meaning 100 miles are equivalent to $1 in travel rewards. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture. There’s an annual fee of $0 intro for first year; $95 after that.
Rewards Details: Members receive 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 within three months of account opening. They’ll also receive a concierge service for booking travel.
APR: 17.99% - 25.24% (Variable)
Card Highlights: Members receive an annual travel credit of $300, however, this card has a $450 annual fee.
Rewards Details: Members earn three points on travel and dining worldwide, and one point on everything else. They’ll also receive access to more than 1,000 airport lounges with complimentary Priority Pass Select membership.
APR: 17.74% – 24.74% Variable
At publishing time, the Capital One Venture Rewards, and Discover it Miles credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuers. Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuers.
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