Travel & Leisure
updated 12/5/2011 10:49:11 AM ET 2011-12-05T15:49:11

When technology consultant Steve McHargue travels to Panama on business, his biggest complaint is the airport where he frequently gets delayed.

“If I came home via a connecting flight thorough Anchorage,” says the Dallas area native, “and had to rent a husky team and race the Iditarod to get to my connecting flight, and when I got there they taped me up in a box and sent me to DFW via FedEx—that would all be better than having to go through Miami Airport.”

No doubt other travelers share his frustrations with Miami International Airport, which once again earned a spot among the 10 worst airports for delays. Every year, Travel + Leisure gathers data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics to highlight which U.S. airports have experienced the least and most delayed departures over a 12-month period—in this case, flights that departed more than 15 minutes behind schedule from July 2010 to June 2011.

Chicago Midway ranked the No. 1 worst airport for delays, but overall, the bad news is that even the best airports slipped a little in performance compared to last year. Two previously top 10 airports—LAX and San Diego—have fallen out of favor, while two other airports dropped to the worst half for the first time. On the bright side, McHargue’s home airport, DFW, improved its performance enough to get out of the tardiest 10 for the first time since 2006.

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While you can’t always control which airports you fly through, you can plan your travel in a way that lessens your odds of sitting at the gate. For each airport, we found the time of day when you have a 90 percent or better chance of leaving on time. We also found the time of day when performance falls below 75 percent—and sometimes way below.

If do you get stuck, some airports make better holding tanks than others. “A good one, and one that you’re likely to get stuck in, is San Francisco,” says Harriet Baskas, Seattle blogger and author of Stuck at the Airport. “It’s the only airport with an accredited museum,” she says. “They have great exhibits, and lots of good food options.”

Other airports, such as Washington’s Dulles, could use more diversions. “I always tell people with long layovers there to just get on a bus and go to the Air and Space Museum,” says Baskas.

Read on to see where San Francisco, Dulles, and other major airports ranked this year.

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