Worst U.S. Airports: The Complete List

Flight Delays, Worst Airports and Most Chronically Delayed Flights

If you feel like you have been waiting longer and longer to board flights or are spending more and more time on the tarmac, you are not going crazy. Your cheap tickets aren’t worth the savings if the tradeoff is lost patience.

The number of late departures was up 8.6% in the first five months of 2011, and late arrivals are up nearly 10% according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Only 76.6% of flights between January and May arrived on time – the worst record in the past three years.

Flight Delays: Who Is to Blame?

Surprisingly, weather generally is not the culprit. And considering the fact that the number of available flights has decreased nearly 5% this year, airlines cannot blame overall air traffic, either.

According to CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg, scheduling is the culprit; too many planes are flying at peak travel times, causing air traffic control to slow down the flow.

Many major airports allow carriers to schedule more departures in a given time period than the runways can feasibly handle, which results in inevitable flight delays.

In 2008, the FAA placed flight restrictions on Newark – which has the worst record – allowing 81 takeoffs and landings combined per hour. However, because airlines maximize their schedule, delays early on in the day can spill over hour to hour; by the end of the day, the only option an airline has to catch up is to cancel flights.

Find out Your Legal Rights When Your Flight is Delayed

Of the most delayed flights, two of Delta’s early evening flights between Atlanta and Newark are the most chronically delayed. According to a Wall Street Journal article, this is mostly the result of planes getting caught in congested Washington D.C. air traffic during rush hour. A United official also blamed congested airspace in the New York-New Jersey area.

Airlines are also quick to point out the need for an overhaul of the nation’s flight systems.

“This further reinforces the need to complete the FAA’s airspace redesign project and modernize the nation’s antiquated air traffic control system,” the United official told the Journal.

Top 10 Most Chronically Delayed Flights

Flight Departure Time % of Flights Delayed Average Delay (min.)
Delta 2743 from Newark to Hartsfield-Jackson 5 p.m. 60.15 83
Delta 2843 from Newark to Hartsfield-Jackson 6.25 p.m. 49.5 79
Southwest 50 Dallas Love Field Airport to Kansas City International Airport 7:55 p.m. 47 73
ExpressJet 2248 Memphis International Airport to Newark 7:20 p.m. 46.94 60
Comair 6480 O’Hare to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport 8:00 p.m. 46.22 71
Southwest 1229 LaGuardia to Chicago Midway Airport 7:25 p.m. 45 101
Continental 256 O’Hare to Newark 5:00 p.m. 44.88 62
Delta 2355 Hartsfield-Jackson to Los Angeles 8:45 p.m. 44.87 62
Delta 1977 O’Hare to Hartsfield-Jackson 6:05 p.m. 44.23 86
ExpressJet 2717 Newark to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport 9:17 p.m. 44.23 63

Top 10 Airports With the Most Flight Delays

Whatever the cause for these delays, your best bet is to avoid these repeat offenders when possible. We have listed the top 10 most delayed airports in the country and a nearby alternative.

1. Newark Liberty International in New Jersey: In this case, even the alternatives do not always have the best records. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ list of most delayed flights, those to and from LaGuardia International Airport show up 12 times compared with JFK International at five. You will see both are in the top 10 for most delays. Instead of using one of the big three in the New York area, check out nearby regional airports, including Long Island’s MacArthur Airport, Atlantic City International, White Plains Airport and Stewart International

2. O’Hare International in Chicago: Officials blame O’Hare’s obsolete runways for causing so many flight delays. Until that problem is fixed, use Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International.

3. Logan International in Boston: Save money on parking, skip the traffic and avoid those pesky delays by using one of several regional airports, including T.F. Green Airport in Rhode Island, Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in New Hampshire and Bradley International Airport in Hartford.

4. LaGuardia International in New York: See our notes about Newark. If you are looking to avoid flight delays (not to mention long lines at security and check-in), steer clear of JFK or Newark and head to Long Island’s MacArthur, Atlantic City International, White Plains Airport or Stewart International. MacArthur and Atlantic City are adding flights and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is helping out Stewart with a $500 million, 10-year refurbishing project.

5. Hartsfield-Jackson International in Atlanta: There are not too many alternatives to this Southern hub. You could fly into Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport in Tennessee, which is about a two-hour drive from Atlanta, or Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Alabama, which is a two-and-a-half-hour drive.

6. Miami International: If you are looking to skip the crowds – not to mention the unending mazes – at Miami, you have a couple of alternatives. Palm Beach International recently ranked 23rd in a list of the top 101 most affordable U.S. airports and it was named one of the 10 most relaxed and stress-free airports. The airport is about an hour and 15 minutes away from Miami. You could also use Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, which is just a half hour from Miami.

7. Minneapolis-St. Paul International: Apparently, double the cities does not mean double the airports. The pickings are slim for alternatives to Minneapolis-St. Paul – but if you are desperate, you can always fly into Duluth International Airport – about a two-hour-and-45-minute drive from the Twin Cities. Be wary about booking flights here in the winter, especially if you have to drive; Duluth averages 80 inches of snow a year.

8. JFK International in New York: You might have guessed this already, but if you are worried about flight delays in the New York metropolitan area, JFK is still a better bet than the alternatives – LaGuardia and Newark. Again, if you want to skip the big guys, use Long Island’s MacArthur, Atlantic City or Stewart Airports.

9. Los Angeles International: Not only is it prone to delays, but L.A. International is bustling and can be confusing to navigate. Consider using Burbank Bob Hope Airport, which reviewers love because of short security lines and fast luggage retrieval. Long Beach, John Wayne Airport in Orange County, or LA-Ontario International also are alternatives.

10. Northwest Arkansas Regional: Compared with the other big names on this list, it is a little strange that a regional airport like this has so many delays. However, if you need to travel to this region, and you want to make it on time, check out Tulsa International Airport (a two-hour drive from Northwest Arkansas Regional).

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Published: August 29, 2011