Road Warrior

Worst Airports for Connections

Paul O'Donnell and Daniel Bukszpan

Worst Airports for Connections

American Airlines passengers wait in line at O'Hare Airport, Chicago.
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Few phrases strike dread in the hearts of travelers like "connecting flight." Which U.S. airports have more late or missed connections than others depends mostly on the local weather and the on-time performance of the airlines that use them most frequently. Some airlines are notoriously unreliable, and some are in cities that take regular beatings from bad weather.

Whether you make your flight or not is mostly a matter of your arrival: a late departure of your connecting flight may be inconvenient, but you'll still make your next plane. Our 2013 list is based on Bureau of Transportation Statistics' ranking of the 10 major U.S. airports with the worst records for on-time arrivals for domestic flights in 2012 and in the first quarter of 2013. Read ahead to see which airports were mostly likely to make you miss your connecting flight.

— By Daniel Bukszpan and Paul O'Donnell
Posted 3 April 2012; updated 24 June 2013

10. Miami International

American Airlines passenger, Lilly Tajman holds her daughter, Sofie Tajman as they wait in line for a flight at Miami International Airport.
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The nation's 25th busiest airport with more than 9 million passengers arriving each year, Miami International enjoys a great location close to South Beach and the city's growing art scene. In recent months, the airport has boosted its on-time arrival performance over the 80 percent mark—but with reputation for losing bags and an average arrival delay of nearly an hour, Miami scrapes into the 10 worst.

9. Denver International

Airline travelers getting through security on the south side of Denver International Airport.
Andy Cross | The Denver Post | Getty Images

Consistently voted one of the nation's most beautiful airports, Denver's usefulness as a connector is often sunk by bad weather, which is responsible for the delays more than half the time in the winter months. The one upside is that the highly praised new American Airlines' Admirals Club can make the wait less painful.

8. George Bush Intercontinental/Houston

Passengers stand online at George Bush International Airport in Houston.
Daniel J. Barry | WireImage | Getty Images

The country's 12th busiest airport for arrivals, Houston's international field was ranked 18th for arrival performance in the past year. Houston's efficiency has been dropping since 2009, and its average arrival delay has grown to more than an hour, making it less likely that you'll make that next flight.

8. Ronald Reagan Washington National

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 22.28 percent of flights landing there did so later than they were supposed to, while 17.59 percent left late.
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Gaining passengers by the day, Reagan National is an increasingly sticky place to fly through. Ranked 22nd for on-time arrival performance for the 12 months ending in April, the last month for which results are available, the airport seems to have fallen behind nearby Dulles International for efficiency in the past quarter. As a portal to D.C., Baltimore-Washington International may not be as close to the Capitol, and may not afford glimpses of passing members of Congress, but BWI may allow you to get home on time.

7. John F. Kennedy International

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. the website of the traveler’s guide book series, 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 tha
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Prepare to wait at New York's JFK, where arriving flights are late 23 percent of the time. Fortunately, the airport itself is in the process of an upgrade, with Jet Blue and Delta both handsomely renovating their terminals (along with their food options). But with a 77 percent on-time rate for arrivals, connecting passengers will likely get too much of a good thing.

6. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International

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.
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If you were thinking of avoiding Miami's balky connections by flying through here, think again: If anything, Fort Lauderale-Hollywood, 20 miles north, is consistently worse for landing you on time, though since the tardiness of outgoing flights outdoes its laxity on incoming flights, there's still a chance you'll make your connection.

3. LaGuardia

Together with Kennedy International and Newark Liberty International, LaGuardia is part of the largest airport system in the United States, and the in the world after London.With that much traffic at the airport and in its vicinity, it’s not surprising that there are frequent delays. Accordingly, 27.82 percent of flights arrived late and 22.49 percent left late.LaGuardia was also ranked the in the U.S. by the Zagat Survey in 2010, and in January, Frommer’s the airport’s U.S. Airways terminal
Don Emmert | AFP | Getty Images

It's not just you who hates to go through New York's "other" airport. The pilots hate to wedge their planes onto its hemmed-in runways and both JD Power and Associates and Zagat recently called LaGuardia the worst major airport in America. Besides the atmospherics, just 72 percent of incoming flights landed on time in the first quarter of 2013, continuing the downward trend of the past two years.

2. San Francisco International

San Francisco International Airport
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Don't blame San Francisco. The city provides a highly efficient rail link to the airport, and another nicely planned transport system connects the terminals. That's where the smooth transitions end, though. Nearly 30 percent of arrivals are late, earning it 28th place among major airports for the 12 months ending in April 2013.

And you can keep your complaints to yourself: The lion's share of flights into SFO are on United Airlines, which was tagged in an annual joint report by Wichita State and Purdue University as the worst airline for 2012 and was called out especially for its unimpressive customer service.

2. O'Hare International

American Airlines passengers wait in line at O'Hare Airport, Chicago.
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A world-class airport with great eats, handsome architecture and wide concourses, O'Hare is also a leader in bad mojo. Midwestern tempests slow the traffic here to a crawl, not only delaying arriving flights by a nation-leading 70 minutes on average but causing a shocking 6 percent to be canceled altogether. After posting a 76 percent on-time performance for much 2012, O'Hare dipped to 71 percent since the beginning of 2013.

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 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
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Two of the most regularly delayed flights in the United States originate from Newark, both headed to Atlanta during rush hour, according to Consumer Reports. But overall, arrivals are delayed even longer than outgoing flights, on average, and one third of them are late to take off. Critics complain, furthermore, than if you miss your flight, you're stranded beyond security without decent food choices.