All airports are not created equal.
Confusing directions, jacked-up food prices and congested terminals may be the defining features of some airport experiences, but a new report from the Air Transport Research Society shows that not all airports deserve the same reputation.
By crunching data from 2015 on a handful of key factors, including productivity, efficiency and cost competitiveness, the ATRS report ranks 206 airports around the globe in 24 different airport groups. The ATRS has collected performance data from as early as 2002, and a single American airport has seized the top spot more than a dozen years in a row.
On the flip side, the report also confirms that travelers to New York aren't wrong to complain about the city's oft-maligned major airports. John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia International Airports were both ranked the lowest in their respective groups for cost competitiveness. And LaGuardia ranked second-worst in its size range — between 25 and 40 million annual passengers — in terms of productivity.
The airports in this list, however, all rank among the world's best.
Once again, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has been crowned the most efficient airport in the world. This is the 14th consecutive year that the airport, located southwest of downtown Atlanta, has won the Top Efficiency Excellence Award from the ATRS.
Hartsfield airport was also the highest-traffic airport of the 206 airports included in the ATRS survey, boasting 101 million passengers in 2015. Chicago O'Hare, the airport with the second-highest passenger traffic in North America, served fewer than 80 million that year.
The airport's efficiency "allows ATL to be cost competitive and operationally efficient to maximize operations, all of which contributes to the continuous growth of the airport," said Balram Bheodari, deputy general manager of the Atlanta airport, in a press release.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport ranked highest on North America's "Residual Variable Factor Productivity" scale for airports with 25 to 40 million passengers in 2015. Productivity was calculated after removing a series of factors "beyond managerial control," including airport size, share of international traffic and the size of an average aircraft. Minnesota's two-terminal airport also grabbed the highest score in its group for cost competitiveness.
Vancouver's seaside international airport received the highest score for productivity in the report for North American airports accommodating 10 to 25 million passengers in 2015.
The smallest North American airport earning accolades for efficiency is Hawaii's Kahului Airport, located on the island of Maui. While Kahului Airport only reached 9th for cost competitiveness, it topped the list for productivity among North American airports with under 10 million annual passengers in 2015.
Athens International Airport scored more than three times higher in cost competitiveness than the next airport of similar size. It was also ranked highest in productivity, making it by far Europe's most efficient among airports with 10 to 25 million passengers per year.
South Korea's Jeju International Airport was the most productive Asian airport in the 10-to-40-million-passenger range in 2015. The airport also came second in terms of cost competitiveness.
Sydney International Airport may be a part of the least competitive region — only 15 airports from Oceania were ranked in the ATRS study, compared with 82 in North America — but the Australian airport still claimed the highest marks on productivity. It came 5th in cost competitiveness, however.