5 Worst Airports

…that I’ve ever flown into, out of or through:

  • John F. Kennedy, New York  (JFK) — considering its location, it’s a disgrace. Baggage handlers are thieves (luggage routinely disappears after being unloaded), staff are New York Rude, and the p.a. system would probably be more intelligible if they hired retired drill sergeants to bellow the announcements through megaphones.
  • LaGuardia, New York (LGA) — Rude, obnoxious and uncaring staff everywhere, and only about 10% can speak English at all, let alone fluently. You could die anywhere in LGA and it would take a week for your corpse to be discovered, or attended to.
  • O.R. Tambo, Johannesburg (JNB) — When the TSA-style security officials empty the cash out of your wallet while the others are making you unpack your carry-on bag… when flying out, keep your cash in your pockets.
  • Bangalore/ Bengelaru, India (BLR) — Dirty, inefficient, no idea how to handle crowds, no passenger conveniences (e.g. restaurants). Don’t even get me started on going through Immigration / Customs, whether arriving or departing.
  • Leonardo da Vinci / Fiumicino, Rome (FCO) — Being Italian, they still haven’t decided which name to use, some twenty-five years after deciding to rename the place. Check-in staff are notorious for just disappearing if there are too many passengers and canceled flights for them to handle. It is easier to drive to Milan (MXP) and fly out of there, instead of trying to deal with FCO during chaotic situations (which happen about every other day, it would appear).

Dishonorable mentions: Los Angeles (LAX) and Charles De Gaulle (CDG) — most confusing airports to navigate through in the world. It would work better if crowd control was managed by Disney; instead, it’s managed by Mickey Mouse, in both airports. I speak French fluently, and I still couldn’t understand the p.a. announcements at CDG. Perhaps they have an exchange program with JFK…

Your nominations in Comments.


  1. Aeroporto Internacional Quatro de Fevereiro- Luanda, Angola
    Douala International Airport- Douala, Cameroon
    Nouakchott International Airport- Nouakchott, Mauritania (closed since 2016)
    Murtala Muhammed International Airport- Lagos, Nigeria

    Anyone detecting a pattern?

  2. Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
    Might be okay when there’s no construction.
    I’ve never been there when there’s not construction.

    Atlanta (ATL)
    When I was a consultant, I made it a point to never, ever take a flight with connections in ATL.
    On domestic travel, I like to get where I’m going on the same day I leave.

    1. I second both of those. Trying to make a transfer in either of those airports is only possible if you’re a marathon runner, because your plane WILL land at the end of the furthest terminal, and your connecting flight is on the other end.

      The layout of Minneapolis-St. Paul is even worse, but the folks there manage to make it possible for you to walk the 26.2 miles rather quickly.

    2. Never flown much, but for the better part of a decade I had coworkers who did have to fly frequently. They always, always got hung up on stops in Atlanta. Sometimes the delays during return trips were so long that they could have driven the rest of the way and gotten home sooner.

    3. I don’t mind connecting thru ATL.
      I’m usually on Delta on route to DAL and there’s a Five Guys in the terminal.
      Just figure on throwing out half your fries.

    4. An emphatic AMEN to both.

      Kim knows what I do and who I do it for; it involves weekly travel for the last 20 years.

      O’Hare is still the ONLY airport I’ve ever lost luggage in.

      As for Atlanta: for 8 years, it was far more reliable to drive from Montgomery AL to Atlanta, board there, travel, deplane, and drive back. In fact, when my blushing bride of 17 years was traveling from NYC to visit me pre-engagement, she booked to connect thru ATL.
      — When she got there, her connection was delayed, so she called me. I had time to:
      — Drive up to Atlanta (2 hours)
      — pick her up at the airport
      — drive back (2 hours)
      — enjoy a nice leisurely dinner (another 1-2 hours)
      — and we still beat her luggage by an hour.

  3. I’d add to the dishonorable mentions Frankfurt, Germany. It’s clean…but if you’re changing flights, they run you all over the place. I actually prefer CDG.

    Dulles is just time-consuming.

    1. I once transferred in Frankfurt. I thought that three hours would allow me time to get a nice bite to eat before my flight to Japan.
      I was wrong. I had just enough time to get through the airport, and what seemed like 10 different security checks.

  4. I’ve been through FCO twice, both times in 2009, and it didn’t seem that bad.

    If course I was flying out of/in to the Kuwait City Airport, mostly on the “international” side.

    Now THAT is a dump.

    The “national” side, which I didn’t see until I was leaving Iraq, was…interesting.

  5. Lagos International, Nigeria.
    Old, decrepit and filthy, rude and thieving officials, customs agents demanding tips, no restaurants, chaotic baggage retrieval, taxi touts attempting to drag you to their jalopies, no air conditioning, the bathrooms are not fit for a pigsty.

    About what you would expect in a Third World shithole.

    Avoid like the plague.

  6. The only ones I’ve dealt with are LGA and LAX, and both were bad, but LGA is hands down the worst airport I’ve been through. Hell, I ride the subway and bus to get there from Midtown, and the subway and bus are better than the airport itself.

    Whenever I can, I fly in and out of Newark. It’s just better for my mental (and overall) health.

    Some other airports are less “worst” and more “WTF?” Like the last time I flew out of Midland/Odessa. There’s roughly, oh, 4 gates, and a walk of about a literal mile from the security screening to those gates. (The screening thankfully, at least 10 years ago, consisted of the usual small town Texas security — “You got anything you ain’t supposed to have? Ok, go ahead.”)

  7. How is Newark a) Not on the list, and b) Not #1? It’s the worst hellhole on the planet, and I’ve flown into dirt strip “airports” in a frickin’ DC3.

  8. LAX- especially the super “ghetto” bus terminal in the International section. Crowded, ugly, and uncomfortable.

    Port Moresby (POM) Domestic. While the International terminal was upgraded, the domestic side is pretty dang poor. First, you have to walk through a gauntlet of pick-pockets to get there. The on screen schedule never lines up with what’s actually happening, and the PA is always unintelligable. Seating is just a bunch of uncomfortable metal benches. And no matter what the scheduled departure time is, all the afternoon flights pretty much just board and leave at 4pm.

    Lae Nadzab. PNG airports tend towards the spartan and bare, but this one is especially memorable as it is 45km outside of town, in the middle of nowhere.

    1. Some honorable mentions:
      Sydney, Australia. Nice, but getting from the domestic to the international terminal is a serious pain in the rear. There’s a bendy bus what makes the trip, but it takes for ever.

      London Gatwick. It’s not that bad, but if you have to transfer to Heathrow, you have to take this bus. It’s not part of your ticket, and I swear it’s run by old, bitter Labourites. On one trip the AC was out, and the driver made a cursory flick at the switch.

      And yes, I do hate bus transfers at airports.

  9. Bangalore/ Bengelaru, India (BLR) — Dirty, inefficient, no idea how to handle crowds, no passenger conveniences (e.g. restaurants). Don’t even get me started on going through Immigration / Customs, whether arriving or departing.

    You were in Newark but thought you were in Bangalore. Easy mistake to make…

  10. I was in Tambo last Wednesday, and not much has changed, for sure. Yes, De gaulle is a mess. Schiphol is not much better, but everyone will help you if you aren’t a dick.

    For my money, no worse airport or way of running an airport exists than MSP. Invariable last minute gate changes causing you to have to sprint to the new gate,(Always on the diametrical opposite end of the port) and of course the preponderance of my nemesis, Delta. Shining stars are John Wayne airport in Santa Ana. Clean, well managed, generally well staffed.

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