The best and worst airports in America

Chicago O’Hare, my home airport, has been ranked by Travel + Leisure as the 2nd worst airport in the country for its delayed flight percentages. But despite flying to and from the airport fairly often, I’ve never experienced the major delays it’s best-known for. Maybe the airport gods know that, as someone who is terrified of flying, I’m already under enough stress and just couldn’t take the added panic of a delayed flight. Or maybe, I’ve just been lucky so far. Either way, I was surprised to find O’Hare ranked quite so high on the bad list (and to learn that it was #1 in 2008). Some of the other findings were surprising as well, and some others – well, not so much.

Salt Lake City came in at the number one spot on the “best airports” list, based on a 12% delayed flight percentage. Portland, Minneapolis St. Paul, Los Angeles (LAX), Detroit and Orlando also made the top ten list. The losers included Miami, Dallas Fort Worth, Atlanta and Philadelphia. New York was doubly shamed with both JFK and Laguardia on the list. Taking the top spot was Newark with a whopping 30% of its flights delayed.

The magazine also ranked the best and worst airlines in America, based purely on on-time arrival rates. Comair and American were among the worst, with Hawaiian and Southwest showing the smallest percentage of delays.

Your ticket was expensive and your plane crowded, but at least you took off on time

Is there an upside to the fact that the airline industry is struggling? Perhaps you can feel smug knowing that the CEOs of legacy carriers will probably be taking home six-figure bonuses this year, instead of the usual seven or eight digit haul (“Ha, greedy bastards finally got what they deserve,” you might say to yourself).

But all you smiling, glass-half-full folks out there can take comfort in this: airlines have the highest on-time percentages they’ve had in a long, long time. According to USAToday, 86% of all flights were on time during the month of October. That is compared to 78% during the same month of 2007.

A plane is considered on time if it reaches its destination within 15 minutes of its scheduled arrival time. I assume they mean less than 15 minutes later than scheduled; although I’m sure there is the odd person out there who might be put off by arriving 15 minutes early.

So look on the bright side of air travel. You may have to spend more for your ticket and your plane is bound to be crowded and, perhaps, noisy. But at least you have a good chance of getting where you are going on time.