America's Best Airports – The Surprise Top 10

The biggest surprise about Travel+Leisure’s best airports list?  That so few of us actually use these terminals. In other words, forget the big boys like O’Hare, JFK, LAX and Hartsfield-Jackson – on this latest list, there’s not a super-hub in sight, though US Airways’ Charlotte did grace the number 10 spot (see video of a landing at the No. 1 airport below).

Can’t be late? These are the airports to fly

Where is T.F. Green Airport?

We’re willing to bet there are a number of travelers who have never heard of some of these top-rated but diminutive airports: Quick, where is T. F. Green? [See No. 4 below] But size is part of the appeal of smaller-city airports. While it’s true that some winners have less airline competition which often means higher average ticket prices, many of them also have less congestion which can mean a more pleasant travel experience.

There are some larger airports on the list, too – those that manage to combine a knack for good organization with giving the people what they want. Notice that, for this list anyway, people want shops and restaurants. And on-time flights.

Which airport is best for lost bags? (None, but here’s what to do)

Top 10 Airports in America

Want to see these for yourself? Click the airport name to find a cheap flight there.

1. Oregon’s Portland International (PDX): Great on-time record, plus fine shopping and food options; passengers are urged to “try Stanford’s for fish tacos, burgers, or BLTs.” Its location is considered a bit far away but the light rail to and from the airport was a plus.

2. Tampa International (TPA): Great location and a “layout designed for a minimum of walking” which may not appeal to the hikers among us.

3. Texas’ Austin-Bergstrom International (AUS): Tops in food thanks to eateries featuring everything including barbeque, Tex-Mex and Saxon’s Pub (and sometimes with live music).

4. Rhode Island’s T.F. Green Airport (PVD): Just six miles south of Providence, this airport is cited for its “smooth check-in process” possibly because it’s a lot less hectic than nearby Logan.

5. Indianapolis Airport (IND): Winner of best design (lots of glass) plus rental cars are a just short walk away. [Editor’s note: very friendly TSA agents, too]

6. Minneapolis-St. Paul International (MSP): When it’s cold outside, what do people like to do? Shop and this airport scored number one in that category.

7. Boise Airport (BOI): Idaho’s largest airport (far and away) ranked best for fewest flight delays, plus its size made getting around a breeze.

8. Nashville International (BNA): Highly touted for its “efficiency” which passengers believe means fewer delays. Lots of play areas for kids, too.

9. Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International (MKE): While its Renaissance Books shop is said to be one of the finest airport bookstores in the world (is that really a hotly contested category?), it is also considered to be in an excellent location. Few delays, too.

10. Charlotte Douglas International (CLT): If you’ve ever walked through the atrium of this North Carolina airport, you may have admired all those inviting-looking white wooden rocking chairs but you probably had no time to use them thanks to that long sprint from one terminal to another.

VIDEO: Coming in for a landing at PDX over Oregon’s Columbia River.

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Published: October 16, 2013