Worst airports for connections

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Newark Liberty International Airport has the worst record for on-time arrivals and departures of any U.S. airport.

Few phrases strike dread in the hearts of travelers like “connecting flight.” Flying to a destination on more than one plane increases the odds of delay and a missed connection.

Some U.S. airports have more late or missed connections than others, depending, in part, on which airlines use them and where they’re located. Some airlines are notoriously unreliable, and some airports are in cities that take regular beatings from bad weather. These airports become notorious for delayed connections.

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics ranked the 10 U.S. airports with the worst records for on-time arrivals in 2011. The bureau also provides data for on-time departures. Its survey covers 29 major airports, defined as serving at least 1 percent of total passengers boarding domestic flights in one year, so small airports weren’t included.

Read ahead to see which airports were the worst for connections in 2011. 

Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport is in Broward County, Fla., about 20 miles north of Miami. According to the bureau, 78.88 percent of flights landed at the terminal on time.

This means that passengers on 21.12 percent of the flights that landed there had to make a mad dash through the terminal if they had a connection to catch. Most of them didn’t have to worry, though, since 19.74 percent of flights from the airport didn’t take off on time either. 

9. Washington Dulles International Airport
Washington Dulles International Airport is in Dulles, Va., 25 miles west of the nation’s capital. In 2011, the airport served over 23 million passengers, according to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, but 21.39 percent of the flights arrived later than they were supposed to, making connections needlessly stressful, while 20.19 percent of flights experienced delayed departures, leading to lots of huffing and fuming in the waiting area.  

8. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
The airport in Arlington County, Va., processes fewer passengers than nearby Dulles, with just over 18.8 million people passing through it in 2011, according to the airports authority. Still, 22.28 percent of flights landing there did so later than they were supposed to, while 17.59 percent left late. 

7. Philadelphia International Airport
Philadelphia International Airport served almost 31 million passengers in 2010, and is the 12th busiest in the world in terms of traffic movements, according to a 2011 report from the Airports Council International.

With that kind of activity, it’s easy to see why the airport would encounter lots of delays. In 2011, delays affected 23.84 percent of incoming flights and 21.1 percent getting off ground. 

6. O’Hare International Airport
Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport suffers from something of an identity crisis. On the one hand, it was voted “Best Airport in North America” for four consecutive years by Global Traveler magazine, from 2004 to 2007. On the other hand, fully 24.52 percent of flights landing there did so behind schedule, and it had the third-worst record for departures in 2011, with delays at 25.6 percent.  

5. John F. Kennedy International Airport
At New York’s Kennedy International, 24.66 percent of all flights landed there late in 2011, and 22.49 left late. But unreliability is only one factor leading some to consider it to be one of the worst in which to make a connection.

Frommers.com, the website of the traveler’s guide book series, included it in its “10 Worst Airport Terminals” feature published in January. It called the airport’s Terminal 3 “the worst single airport terminal in America,” and cited “an utter lack of food and shopping options…hallways that could have been designed by M.C. Escher” and “a sense that the cleaning crew gave up in despair a while ago.” 

4. Logan International Airport
Boston’s Logan International Airport, the largest airport in New England, had a banner year in 2011, when almost 29 million passengers used it. Unfortunately, a whopping 26.35 percent of flights didn’t get there when they were supposed to, and 21.11 had takeoff delays. 

3. LaGuardia Airport
Together with Kennedy International and New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International, New York’s LaGuardia is part of the largest airport system in the United States, and the second-largest in the world after London.

With that much traffic at the airport and the others in its vicinity, it’s not surprising there are frequent delays. Accordingly, 27.82 percent of flights arrived late and 22.49 percent left late.

LaGuardia was also ranked the worst major airport in the U.S. by the Zagat Survey in 2010, and in January, Frommer’s singled out the airport’s U.S. Airways terminal as “dull and sad.”  

2. San Francisco International Airport
San Francisco International Airport is the second-largest airport in California after Los Angeles International Airport. The terminal is easily accessible from various points in the Bay Area via mass transit, and the airport operates AirTrain, a completely automated train system connecting the terminals.

Inside the airport, the atmosphere is decidedly less pleasant. One is statistically likely to see at least a few impatient passengers waiting for delayed flights to land, as these account for 28.62 percent of all arrivals. As for departures, 23.72 percent took off later than scheduled.  

1. Newark Liberty International Airport
When it comes to on-time arrivals, Newark Liberty International Airport has the worst record of any U.S. airport. A whopping one in three flights — 33.28 percent — arrived late. It also has the worst record for on-time departures, with 27.03 percent taking off later than scheduled.

According to an August 2011 article on the “Consumer Reports” website, the two most chronically delayed flights in the U.S. both originate from Newark. Both flights go to Atlanta during rush hour, both flights have an average delay of one hour and 21 minutes, and both flights are delayed between 50 percent and 60 percent of the time.

Frommer’s was also unkind in its assessment of the airport itself in January, particularly Terminal B. “The airport idiotically puts security before individual piers in Terminals A and B, which means that rather than have a whole terminal’s food and shopping to entertain you, you’re stuck out on a single pier,” the article said.  

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