This Is the Most Reliable Airport in the United States
Learn where you’ll find the shortest delays and fewest cancellations—and which major location has two of the worst performers.
Catching a plane should be easy enough. Get through security, find your way to the gate, climb aboard, and let the pilots do their thing. In reality, however, about 15 percent of flights in 2020 were held up by delays, cancellations, and diversions, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. And that’s after giving flights wiggle room of 15 minutes before being considered late.
You can’t expect the same number of delays from every airport, though. The travel website Upgraded Points conducted research on 60 U.S. airports to figure out which had the highest customer satisfaction, taking into account the number of canceled and delayed flights, ease of transportation to a city center, and airport amenities. FYI, if you haven’t traveled in a while, you won’t see these things in airports anymore.
But not all of those metrics were weighted the same. “Overall satisfaction” was weighted at 45 percent and included lots of individual reliability metrics like the efficiency of the security and baggage claim processes. “Average delay/cancel times” had a 25 percent weight. This category assessed three different metrics from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics data: “the average scheduled departure to takeoff delay in minutes, overall percentage of late flights, and overall percentage of canceled flights.”
Other factors that contributed to the overall ranking were “airport public transit,” weighted at 15 percent; “lounge access,” at 10 percent; and “Wi-Fi,” at 5 percent. All of these metrics received a score from 1 to 5, and those scores were weighted accordingly and combined to find the airport’s total score.
Portland International Airport soared above the rest with a total score of 4.51 out of 5. It wasn’t the winner in the delay and cancellation times category, though, which is what might be most crucial determinant of “reliability”—but it was second place! In that category, it had a score of 4.65 out of 5, coming in just behind the top scorer, Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. The Alaska airport had a 4.85 out of 5 score in that category, but only placed fourth on the overall satisfaction list. The second- and third-place winners overall were Denver International Airport and Tampa International Airport, respectively. San Francisco International Airport rounded out the top five.
On the other end of the spectrum, John Glenn Columbus International in Ohio had the lowest score. Its score in terms of delay and cancellation times, though, was only seventh-worst with a 2.5 out of 5. There was one airport, though, that got a 1 out of 5 in this category: Newark Liberty, in New Jersey. It had an average departure delay time of 30 minutes. Who knows—these bizarre reasons for flight delays might be to blame. On the overall ranking, Newark was fourth from the bottom. Its nearby airport LaGuardia also garnered some serious dissatisfaction, with a 1.35 score for average delay and cancel times and a 30-minute departure delay average, just like Newark. And on the overall list, it was even lower than Newark: second-worst. If you do find yourself stuck at the airport, at least you can entertain yourself with these free things to do while waiting for your flight.
Check out the rest of the top 10 best U.S. airports from Upgraded Points:
- Portland International Airport (PDX)
- Denver International Airport (DEN)
- Tampa International Airport (TPA)
- Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC)
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
- Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP)
- Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
- Sacramento International Airport (SMF)
- Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL)
- Indianapolis International Airport (IND)
While the Upgraded Points assessment looked at pre-pandemic data, COVID-19 has totally upended air travel, and there’s one airport that got the most complaints early in the pandemic.