Flying is a fun experience. Having traveled a lot for work and a few times for pleasure, I’ve had the opportunity to see a lot of airports around the country. Most of us are hoping to not spend a bunch of time at an airport. We’d much rather get checked in and get on our way. But sometimes you can’t avoid holdovers or delays. In that case, it’s a better experience when the airport you’re at is a nicer one. Here is my quick guide to the three best and three worst airports.
3. Denver International Airport
I’ve only been here once, for a holdover for a couple of hours. But that was enough time for me to appreciate this airport for what it had. First of all the airport looks very pleasing from the outside, with the roof set to look like the Rocky Mountains. First and foremost I had no problems finding my way to my gate, and the flight left right on time. The announcer at the gate was very friendly too. There is a great selection of shops and restaurants. I grabbed a beer at the Boulder Beer Tap House, which has a good selection. The beer I had was wonderful, and I’d love to have the chance to enjoy another one. As far as shopping goes the airport has its own mall. I’m not a big airport shopper, but there’s certainly enough here to keep you interested in browsing around. Overall I have nothing to complain about regarding this airport.
2. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
I’ve been to this airport on a few occasions. The first time I was younger on a family trip, but I’ve since been there a few times for work. The security wait for me has always been negligible. I get in and out pretty quickly even with a line. Finding your away around is incredibly easy, one of the most efficient for large airports. It’s well kept and the people in the concession stands and gates are very friendly. There’s also a great selection of eateries and restaurants. I recommend the Desert Springs Brewing Company. Also, each terminal has a museum exhibition. These feature things from a World War 1 plane on display to art exhibits. There’s plenty here to enjoy if you’re going to be at the airport for a while.
1. Salt Lake City International Airport
This is the most laid back feeling major airport I’ve ever been at, and yet it is remarkably efficient. I’ve never had any delays. I’ve also never had any issues with security, baggage, or any questions. The food selection here is unrivaled with both quality and vastness of food types. The Milcreek Coffee place has some of the best airport coffee I’ve ever had. The shopping is also stellar, and they offer a great selection of general services. The whole airport has free wi-fi, which is good for business travelers as well as anyone looking to surf the web. If you’re flying out of here and want to get there early, there’s even a golf course just south of the terminal that’s very affordable, costing only $27 for 18 holes.
Honorable Mentions: Tampa, Minneapolis, Houston George Bush
3. Dulles International Airport (Washington DC)
If I have to go through DC, I much prefer Reagan, which has a much better ambiance. Dulles is a busy airport where you constantly feel rushed. The staff isn’t rude, but isn’t nice either. I’m also more unimpressed with the food selection here. It has the normal fast food places and a few restaurants, but there’s nothing distinguishing about Dulles. There’s little else to do if you’re stuck here but to shop or sit at the gate. This is not the worst place I’ve been, but it strikes me as fairly bland, especially for the national capital’s flagship airport. It feels like a place they just wants to usher you out. The signs aren’t too confusing to follow, but they also make the place feel more cramped.
2. Philadelphia International Airport
This is my hometown airport, so I’ve been there the most. I must say I feel like I’ve never had a 100% smooth experience. The security is very slow moving, the check in and baggage staff have no personality, and the people at the gate are often rude and abrupt. There are frequent delays that aren’t weather related, and they seem to have no sense of the traffic on their runways…you could be in taxi for over an hour. Landing isn’t much better. Among my issues there have been taking 45 minutes to attach the jet way, and having to wait because another plane was at the gate. The baggage claim area is also a nightmare, and you could be waiting hours for your begs on some instances. The dining and shopping are fine, with a mix of chain places and Philly-centric fare, including a Chickie’s and Pete’s. But the prices are a bit more marked up, which seems to be a theme of the east coast airports. It’s always packed with people, so there is little room to relax, especially since the gate seats fill up very quickly. Overall, every time I go to PHI I expect the worst.
1. Hartsfeld-Jackson Airport (Atlanta)
This is the busiest airport I’ve ever been at, and it shows each time. I’ve spent as much as four hours getting checked in and through security. At one time at the US Air counter, they had four people working, two for first class line, one baggage and one coach. Even though the first-class line was empty, no one else ever came over to help in the coach line. As a result, I was very close to missing my flight. Like Philly, they have a number of delays for unknown issues, and they never explain what’s going or give you status updates. If you’re trying to get a connection, you can forget about them holding it. The airport layout is very long, and the signs are not clearly labeled. But security is still my biggest pet peeve here. They have one point for all terminals, and all lines fill through there. It’s a miserable experience. As far as eating goes, its a fair selection. I like the Sweetwater Brewery. But other than, I dread going through this airport.