Out of Office

These US airports rank the worst for summertime travel

Lexie Carmon, special to CNBC.com
Key Points
  • MileCards.com found that New York, San Francisco and Boston suffer the worst summertime airport delays.
  • Industry mavens suggest travelers avoid congested hubs or take proactive steps to ease travel through them.
  • TSA PreCheck clearance and use of so-called mile cards can take the bite out of summer travel aggravation.
The dog days of summer bring on more airline delays than any other time of year

As the summer progresses and the heat sets in, the urge to travel is at an all-time high. But before booking a plane ticket, those traveling for business or pleasure might consider the overall quality of the airports they're traveling through.

According to a new ranking from rewards-travel website MileCards.com, New York's three major airports — Newark, LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy — along with Boston and San Francisco, are the worst five airport hubs for summer travel.

Officials at San Francisco International, No. 3 in MileCards' 2017 Summer Flight Delay Study and described as "a pocket of misery," did not return requests for comment.

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For his part, travel analyst Henry Harteveldt, founder of Atmosphere Research Group in San Francisco, did not comment on his hometown hub but did share that he has nothing good to say right now about second-place finisher LaGuardia in New York.

"Their airlines schedule too many flights, which leads to air-traffic delays," he said.

Poor terminal design can compound congestion issues even at better-performing airports. Harteveldt reflected on a time where he was traveling via Los Angeles International Airport — which, with a 78.9 percent on-time ranking, placed in the middle of the summer travel pack — and found the terminals there deficient: "The terminals are inadequate with moving people through the airport and are not connected," he said.

New York, Boston and San Francisco are home to the worst airports for summer travel, found MileCards.com. Source: MileCards.com

Harteveldt believes LAX needs to tear down all domestic terminal buildings and build completely new concourses in order to create security areas that can accommodate the airport's enormous growth.

Harteveldt also gave a few suggestions on what passengers themselves can do to improve their overall travel experience at any airport.

"Travelers can make sure all their devices are charged and that they check the airport's website to make sure the airport has restaurants that accommodate their dietary needs," he said.

Travelers can make sure all their devices are charged and that they check the airport's website to make sure the airport has restaurants that accommodate their dietary needs.
Henry Harteveldt
founder of Atmosphere Research Group

Harteveldt suggested that people who travel at least two or three times a year should look into getting TSA PreCheck clearance from the Transportation Security Administration.

TSA PreCheck, valid for up to five years, allows low-risk travelers to enjoy expedited security screening. Participants are not required to take off their shoes or belts or to remove liquids or laptops from carry-on luggage.

Travelers who are on a budget but still wish to eventually travel as much of the world as possible might also look into getting a "miles card," also known as a points card, frequent-flyer card or rewards card. A miles card accumulates points based on how far you travel or how much you spend doing so.

Brian Karimzad, director of MileCards, notes that a miles card can be a real money-saver for many travelers.

Before bashing the airlines, consider how business trips have improved

"It gives you points that you can use to reduce the cost of your travel," he said. "So instead of paying $2,000 for a ticket, you can use your miles to get it for just some taxes and fees, which can be around $100 depending on where you're going and what airline you're on."

In any event, all is not lost on the airport front. Travelers to San Francisco have commented on its airport's efforts to improve, according to Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research Group.

Over the years, SFO has tweaked Wi-Fi service, restaurant quality and seat comfort at terminals in order to ensure a more positive travel experience. The airport and others like it have even been adding more staff in order to achieve shorter security lines and better customer service.

Oh, and the best airports to connect through this summer? They'd be Phoenix Sky Harbor; John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California; Salt Lake City International and, in Hawaii, Honolulu International and Kahului, on Maui.

— By Lexie Carmon, special to CNBC.com