Top 10 Best US Airports
May 19, 2009

Because I don't believe in being a negative nellie, as promised, I'm publishing the companion list to my "Top 10 Worst US Airports" list. I understand that all the fancy travel magazines and the FAA always publish their own versions of these lists based on silly data like arrival times, delays, and other nonsense. I on the other hand, compile my lists based on whether or not there's a Chick-fil-A in the food court and whether or not I get blisters walking to my gate, or have to stand in the security line for 72 hours only to be questioned about my 3.02 ounces of lotion in my bag.

So without further adieu, I give you my list. These are the airports in the US I just absolutely love and adore and would fly through, into or out of over and over again.

  1. DCA (Reagan National Airport - Washington D.C.): This airport makes the top of my list and not just because Washington D.C. is one of my favorite cities on the entire planet. Reagan National is truly a privilege to visit. Considering it is the only airport smack dab in the middle of the nation's capital, there are a host of security, and high traffic issues that could come into play, but you would never know it as a passenger. This is one of those airports where you can arrive 45 minutes before your flight leaves and be just fine. Everyone there is super friendly, the airport is small and easy to navigate, and there are rarely delays. If you're flying into the DC area, I recommend this airport versus BWI or Dulles simply for the accessibility. Not to mention, nothing beats the view when landing at Reagan. The landscape of Washington D.C. truly is a sight to behold.
  2. AUS (Austin-Bergstrom International Airport): Austin how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Austin's airport is another one that makes flying pleasurable. This small airport is pretty much what you see is what you get. You could arrive less than 30 minutes before your flight leaves and be just dandy. Plus this quaint little airport has is full of windows and natural light. Easy in, easy out. The nearly flawless weather (minus summer) doesn't hurt either. It's so delightful to fly into Austin in the dead of winter and it's pleasantly warm there.
  3. DFW (Dallas Forth-Worth Airport): For some odd reason a lot of people say they hate this airport. Well I absolutely LOVE it. For one, this airport has a food court that sells BBQ. Can't be that. DFW also has a very simplistic set up. Even the most dense of us can find our way around the two terminals. One of the things I love about DFW is it instantly reminds me I'm in the south. DFW even has a clearly displayed prayer chapel in their airport. This would garner PROTESTS in my hometown of Seattle whose chapel is somewhere hidden in Siberia.
  4. SFO (San Francisco International Airport): SFO has been nothing but good to me. My favorite aspect is the accessibility via the BART and also the inter-terminal transportation. It's bar-none. Also one of my favorite aspects of SFO is that it's literally on the water. Oh nothing beats landing in the Bay Area and smelling the fresh smell of sea water. I'm a coastal person for life.
  5. PDX (Portland International Airport): Portland's kind of a boring town to me, but I've literally driven from Seattle to PDX to catch a flight because it's a better airport and sometimes offers better deals to hot destinations. Small, simple, easy to navigate, great food/restaurant options.
  6. DEN (Denver International Airport): I don't care what any of you people say. Denver's airport is the bomb. Sure the likelihood of being snowed in for 17 days goes up if you fly through Denver in the winter, but honestly, there are few airports in which I'd rather be stuck. Just LOOK at the restaurant selections in this place. Unparalleled. Not to mention Denver nearly has an entire MALL inside of it. Maybe for some that's bad news but for a shopaholic like myself, that spells loads of fun. I have no problems with Denver, truly.
  7. RIC (Richmond International Airport): What? Richmond? Most people don't even know this airport exists. Some airports I think are just so inconsequential that they end up being really nice and problem-free. Richmond, Virginia's airport happens to be one of them. Seriously, I've arrived at this airport with 20 minutes to spare and STILL made my flight. RIC is also BRAND spanking new so everything is so fresh and so clean. It's one of my new favorite airports to visit and I fly into it a LOT.
  8. PIT (Pittsburgh International Airport): When you live in Pittsburgh, you have to have a nice airport. Because besides their airport and Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh as a city has NOTHING going for it. I used to recruit from CMU and that was the only reason I ever ended up at PIT. This airport has free wi-fi, simple design and it's rarely busy.
  9. BOS (Boston Logan International Airport): Yes I am the lone person in the entire universe who actually likes flying in and out of Boston. What can I say? The airport has charmed me. I think I like it because it's not too big. It's under a lot of construction and certain terminals look a little like Kosovo, but again, I can get in and out with relative ease. Also it's got a ton of direct flights via Jet Blue which I love. One negative is a lot of business travelers are there in the early mornings flying to and from New York. Security can be a pain at times, but I've never missed a flight there, or had anything terribly delayed. I've also never had to arrive 2 hours early unlike many of the airports on my worst list.
  10. CLT (Charlotte Douglas International Airport): I have to admit it. Charlotte's airport first won be over with their rocking chairs. They were the first airport ever to place traditional rocking chairs out for passengers to sit in. Nice southern charm if I do say so myself. But truly, CLT has become my new preferred layover destination as opposed to ATL (Atlanta). As a business traveler, I appreciate that Charlotte's airport provides many opportunities for me to plug in my laptop and get to work. Thumbs up, even if they don't have a Chick-fil-A.
It's much harder to compile a list of best airports because so many are just mediocre and when comparing to a place like O'Hare, pretty much everywhere else is better. I'm interested to hear your choices for this list.

Also, you'll note one of the big things that makes an airport stand out to me is the margin of time needed to safely catch a flight. If it isn't abundantly clear, I like to cut it close. I don't like waiting at airports so I very much prefer an airport where I can get there about 30-40 minutes before my flight departs (assuming I checked in online). I guess I'm just spoiled like that.

Not-related to airports, but rather airlines, I'd also like to a link another one of my favorite pieces -- a passenger complaint letter written to Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Airlines and perhaps one of the funniest to date. Definitely worth a read: World's best passenger complain letter?

Honorable Mention: MDT - Harrisburg Airport, MSP - Minneapolis Airport, MCO - Orlando International Airport

Previously
Top 10 Worst US Airports

(Image courtesy of Forbes magazine)

Posted by Ambra at May 19, 2009 11:41 AM in Lists
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What is it about MDT that got us an honorable mention on your column? We'd love to hear your feedback! Thanks for choosing to fly HIA!

"you can arrive 45 minutes before your flight leaves and be just fine"

"You could arrive less than 30 minutes before your flight leaves and be just dandy."

"Seriously, I've arrived at this airport with 20 minutes to spare and STILL made my flight."

I love how the times kept getting shorter as the list went on.

lighten up Lori, maybe she she doesn't mind the longer waits because there's more to do while waiting in those top airports

Aw man, you missed your chance!
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