By Megan Leonhardt and Kerri Anne Renzulli
March 21, 2018

Long lines. Delayed flights. Security pat-downs. It’s no wonder that getting through the airport is generally people’s least favorite part of any trip.

You may not have noticed the shift. Unfortunately, many of the largest U.S. airports—LAX in California, John F. Kennedy in New York, O’Hare in Chicago—are still very much in the “needs improvement” category. (In fact, the three worst airports on our list are all in one big metro area.)

And yet, there are airports in the U.S. that have managed to change the way travelers feel about these travel hubs.

“To be a high-performing airport, you’ve got to do the basic blocking and tackling well—you’ve got to have decent access, good security, restrooms have to be clean,” says Mike Taylor, who leads J.D. Power’s airport research. “But what separates the really high performers from the good airports is the food, beverage and retail.”

To find the best airports in the U.S.—those that reduce travel headaches rather than creating them—MONEY analyzed 80 of the nation’s top airports. We took into account customer experience scores from J.D. Power, reader reviews from Travel + Leisure, on-time arrival rates, security delays, and traveler amenities such as shops and restaurants. What follows are the top 15 U.S. airports.


Thomas F. Riley Terminal, John Wayne Airport
courtesy of John Wayne Airport

1. John Wayne Airport (SNA)

Santa Ana, Calif.
-On-time arrivals (as a percent of total): 84.98%
-Number of restaurants: 24

When you think of airports, the last thing that comes to mind is calm. But that’s exactly what John Wayne airport is going for. “They’re trying to create the feeling of serenity in the airport—something that’s at a premium these days,” Taylor says. The airport limits TV monitors, keeps the volume and frequency of overhead announcements low, and even repainted the terminal recently in neutral, stress-reducing tones.

That attention to detail is certainly paying off for this U.S. airport. John Wayne—which served about 10.4 million passengers in 2017— took top marks from J.D. Power, scoring particularly high in areas including airport parking and access, as well as the security processes. The airport also provides a number of amenities, including 24 restaurants and free Wi-Fi while you wait for takeoff.


Country Cat at Portland International Airport (PDX)
courtesy of Portland International Airport (PDX)

2. Portland International Airport (PDX)

Portland, Ore.
-On-time arrivals: 84.46%
-Number of restaurants: 32


May 31, 2010 Indianapolis, IN, USA Hoosier Marketplace is a souvenir and gift shop located in the Indianapolis International Airport
James Kirkikis—Shutterstock

3. Indianapolis International Airport (IND)

Indianapolis, Ind.
-On-time arrivals: 81.18%
-Number of restaurants: 25


Leap by Argent at the Sacramento International Airport
John Swain—Sacramento International Airport

4. Sacramento International Airport (SMF)

Sacramento, Calif.
-On-time arrivals: 81.15%
-Number of restaurants: 22


Gallatin Field in Bozeman is now the busiest airport in the state. August 4, 2015.
Larry Mayer/Billings Gazette Staff

5. Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN)

Belgrade, Mont.
-On-time arrivals: 85.75%
-Number of restaurants: 2


T.F. Green Airport
courtesy of PVD airport

6. T.F. Green Airport (PVD)

Warwick, R.I.
-On-time arrivals: 82.35%
-Number of restaurants: 11


Tampa International Airport
courtesy of Tampa International Airport

7. Tampa International Airport (TPA)

Tampa, Fla.
-On-time arrivals: 80.44%
-Number of restaurants: 40


Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) JAX Airport's central courtyard area recently underwent a makeover. The old furniture was replaced with new pieces, each with convenient power charging stations. Plants have also been placed throughout the area.
courtesy of Jacksonville International

8. Jacksonville International Airport (JAX)

Jacksonville, Fla.
-On-time arrivals: 80.59%
-Number of restaurants: 13


Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW)
Shutterstock

9. Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW)

Fort Myers, Fla.
-On-time arrivals: 80.49%
-Number of restaurants: 18


Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport
courtesy of Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport

10. Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV)

Savannah, Ga.
-On-time arrivals: 81.35%
-Number of restaurants: 10


Entrance sign for the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport
Alamy

11. Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)

Hebron, Ky.
-On-time arrivals: 83.25%
-Number of restaurants: 21


Travelers Steve Gould, left, of Tustin, and Diane Armitage, of Laguna Beach, check out new iPads while they wait for their flights at the passenger concourse at the Long Beach Airport.
Allen J. Schaben—LA Times via Getty Images

12. Long Beach Airport (LGB)

Long Beach, Calif.
-On-time arrivals: 80.99%
-Number of restaurants: 7


Pittsburgh International Airport
courtesy of Pittsburgh International Airport

13. Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)

Pittsburgh, Pa.
-On-time arrivals:82.13%
-Number of restaurants: 33


Departure terminal of Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, March 31, 2013.
MaxVT—Wikimedia

14. Manchester-Boston Regional Airport (MHT)

Manchester, N.H.
-On-time arrivals: 82.63%
-Number of restaurants: 10


Travelers walk to the security check at the Portland International Jetport on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013.
Tim Greenway/Portland Press Herald—Getty Images

15. Portland International Jetport (PWM)

Portland, Maine
-On-time arrivals: 78.94%
-Number of restaurants: 5

With additional reporting by Sergei Klebnikov

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