Most airports are awful. At best they’re joyless econoboxes, at worst purgatorial warehouses of stalled lives.
Some airports deserve special condemnation, though. In some cases, they deserve to be literally condemned. Assembling this top 10 list of misfits I scanned professional surveys and delay statistics and asked my frequent-traveler friends to come up with the 10 airports where you'd least like to spend an extra hour.
I'm sticking to major airports here. There are small airports around the world that consist of a shanty that swelters in the summer and freezes in the winter, with a hole in the wall for baggage claim and a single sad concession stand. (I'm actually describing my experience at Udaipur Airport in India in 1999). But that's not fair. These 10 airports should deliver better service, and they don't. I'm listing them from least worst to the absolute worst.
Chicago Midway Airport
Chicago's Midway airport ranked as the nation's worst for on-time departures in the most recent federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics data, earning it a spot on this list. It isn't a bad place to hang out, with a new food court and a frequent subway connection to downtown Chicago, but any airport is the worst airport if you're stuck there and you aren't getting on a plane.
Consider this the least worst of our set of bad airports. Midway's curse may come more from Chicago's notoriously difficult weather than from any problem the airport itself can fix.
"Paris" Beauvais Airport, France
A solid 50 miles north of Paris, this depressing low-cost box of an airport in Picardy got saddled with a bait-and-switch name by Ryanair, the ultimate bait-and-switch airline. It rated as one of the world's worst airports by Frommers.com friends SleepingInAirports.net because of its lack of seating, lack of services, and general half-tent, half-warehouse atmosphere.
It lacks a rail link to Paris and closes overnight, so hope that your flight doesn't get too delayed, or you may be camping out on the lawn.
For years, Ryanair liked to play this trick of stamping the names of famous cities on distant small-town airports with poor transit links that weren't designed for much tourist traffic: thus Beauvais and "Barcelona Reus," which is more than an hour and a half from Barcelona.
Newark Airport Terminal B
All three major New York City airports are on this list, in large part because they're run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a hideously mismanaged money sink that does a poor job of responding to air travelers' needs.
Newark got two stars -- the worst rating -- in JD Power's 2010 airport study. It's also the nation's worst airport for on-time arrivals in the most recent federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics data.
Fortunately you'll be stuck waiting at your point of origin, because Newark is an awfully dull airport to wait for a flight in. 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. It's pretty quiet out there.
LaGuardia Airport US Airways Terminal,
New York City
I don't hate LaGuardia, but it was recently rated the worst major airport in America by both JD Power and Associates and Zagat Survey, so who am I to argue?
LaGuardia has no rail link to anywhere -- even between its own terminals -- and regularly suffers from congestion, overcrowding, and delays. While its terminals are shaping up, they're still each smaller and with fewer services than you'd expect from an airport at one of the top tourist destinations in the world.
I'm giving the US Airways Terminal the worst-terminal award here because at least the central terminal has an atrium and the Delta terminal just got some new food options. The US Airways terminal is dull and sad.
Amman Queen Alia Airport, Jordan
One of the two airports rated "two stars" by global consulting firm Skytrax, Amman gets lousy ratings for services that might be useful if you're hanging around -- bathroom cleanliness, places to rest, children’s play facilities, and service counters.
Reviews on the Skytrax website make it clear that you may just want to "hold it" in this airport: they're almost universally appalled at the state of the bathrooms. Those reviewers have probably never been to JFK Terminal 3, but still, that isn't good.