May 2, 2012 at 9:05 AM ET
The major American airport that delivers the most seamless experience isn’t on any coast. It wins over fliers with shopping and dining options, the ease of check-in and security, and the friendliness typical of its city hub.
So breathe a sigh of relief if you’ve booked a flight through Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport; Travel + Leisure readers have crowned it America’s best airport.
In our first-ever airport survey, we asked readers to rate America’s 22 major airports in seven categories: flight delays; design; amenities; food and drink; check-in and security; service; and transportation and location. The best-scoring airports have tackled these issues head-on, refurbishing terminals and adding amenities that make the worst airports look evermore outdated by comparison.
Case in point: Travel + Leisure readers affirmed that if you’re looking to avoid the worst flying experiences in the United States, bypass airports in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, which are hobbled by outdated infrastructure, overcrowding, chronic delays and demoralized staff.
You’d also be wise to time your flight as early in the day as possible and seek out alternate airports or regional airports when possible. Baltimore (BWI), for instance, ranked much higher than Washington Dulles airport, with Travel + Leisure readers considering it the best airport for on-time departures. Another highly rated airport, Charlotte (CLT), got high marks for everything from Wi-Fi access to its convenient location.
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Travel + Leisure readers penalized certain airports for locations that appear chosen without the advice of urban planners. Availability of public transportation could help offset a bad location; San Francisco, for instance, was acknowledged for the transit options. And if it was easy to grab a taxi, or the terminals had large and easy-to-read flight boards, that airport got points as well.
When it came time to complain, readers went beyond the issues of check-in process and baggage handling to single out the lack of play facilities for children at many airports as well as lackluster spa facilities. Travel can be stressful enough, and based on reader responses, there’s a demand for more drop-in airport spas where you can get a quick neck, back or foot massage while waiting out that flight delay.
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