5 Worst Airports in the U.S. for Layovers

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eHow Money Blog

As someone who travels a lot, I’m always on the lookout for new ways to save money on airfare. Most of the time, the advice out there is more of the same (use travel rewards cards, price shop online, etc.). So when I read this recent Wall Street Journal piece, I was excited.

Basically, the author finds that “pairing two discounted tickets together to create your own connecting itinerary can often be less expensive than flying on one ticket.”  The author uses this example to illustrate:

For travel from June 11 to 18, the lowest round-trip airfare from Atlanta to Berlin was at $1,541 (as of January 18th).  But the lowest round-trip fare from Atlanta to New York was $258, from New York to Berlin $680.  Combine that $258 fare with the $680 fare, and you end up saving 39%, or $2,400 for a family of four, on flights from Atlanta to Berlin.

You might be thinking: Connecting is so annoying. I agree, which is why I’m sharing the latest survey from Travel Leaders Group, a consortium of travel agents, on the worst (and best) U.S. airports for connecting flights. The survey asked more than 1,000 travel agents, managers and travel company owners: “If your clients are flying and need to connect through a hub airport, which hubs do they avoid and which do they prefer?”  Each travel agent could pick three hubs most-avoided and three that their clients most preferred.

Kathy Gerhardt, a spokesperson for the group, says that there could be “any number of factors” making a hub airport one of the ‘worst’ for connecting flights.  Among the most common factors: Delayed flights, issues getting to the connecting flight (where are those moving sidewalks when you need them?) and local weather (snowy and rainy destinations are likely to cancel or delay flights).

5 worst U.S. airports for connecting flights

  1. Chicago O’Hare – 56.3% of travel agents say clients avoid this airport for connecting flights
  2. New York – JFK – 39.4%
  3. Atlanta – 33%
  4. New York- LGA – 13.7%
  5. Newark – 12.2%

To be sure, this doesn’t mean that you should never connect through these airports. There seems to some ambiguity about which are actually the worst: A significant number of travel agents also said that their clients liked connecting through Atlanta (see below).  Atlanta also gets props for its dining options and amenities, according to the Travel Leaders Group survey.

5 best U.S. airports for connecting flights

  1. Atlanta – 40.5% of travel agents say clients prefer this airport for connecting flights
  2. Charlotte – 25.2%
  3. Dallas/Ft. Worth – 24.3%
  4. Houston Intercontinental – 18.2%
  5. Detroit – 17.5%

Still, it is interesting to note that many of the “worst” airports on the list are in cold weather destinations, where delays due to weather are more likely, whereas many of the “best” airports are in warmer weather locales.  That’s something to think about when you’re booking connecting flights during winter months.

No matter what airport you’re connecting through, you can make the connection as painless as possible by downloading an app like GateGuru, which offers airport maps, arrival and departure information, food and amenity listings for each airport, and more.  You should also remember to pack light, so you can easily get from gate to gate, and “pack your patience and your manners,” says Gerhardt. “The traveler who complains, argues and yells at someone on the other side of the counter isn’t going to receive preferential treatment; the passenger who is kind, patient and perhaps offers a simple statement of understanding to a weary airline worker trying their best to rebook passengers will likely have a better experience,” she says. “Remember, airline employees have a variety of tools at their disposal from hotel and food vouchers to potential upgrades – those perks will likely be offered first to passengers who are patient and understanding of the situation.”


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