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The 5 Best and 5 Worst Airports in the U.S.

Frustrated senior woman in an airport
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If you think you’re having the worst possible experience at the airport, you might be right.

Just in time for the holiday travel season, The Wall Street Journal has ranked the busiest airports in the country, based on everything from on-time performance to customer satisfaction ratings.

Here’s a look at the best and worst airports in America. Note that while the Wall Street Journal made a distinction between midsized and large airports, we’ve ignored that and highlighted the airports with the highest and lowest overall scores. We’ll start with the top-rated airports in the country.

1. Sacramento (SMF)

Sacramento International Airport
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WSJ Score: 70

California’s capital is home to the best airport in the U.S., a fact attributable to “good weather, plenty of runway space and customer service,” airport director Cindy Nichol told the Journal. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Sacramento is also the second-best-paying city for civil engineers.

2. San Diego (SAN)

San Diego, California
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WSJ Score: 67

Tucked away in the southwest corner of the country is the next-best airport in the U.S.

San Diego International Airport provided “smooth travel Thanksgiving weekend,” according to a local FOX affiliate that quoted travelers saying the experience “wasn’t too bad” and “actually, it was good.”

3. San Jose (SJC)

San Jose International Airport, California
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WSJ Score: 66

California sweeps the top three with San Jose’s airport completing the Golden State trifecta.

San Jose is also one of “The 15 Happiest Cities in America.” A hassle-free departure for vacation from this Silicon Valley hub is a pretty good reason to smile.

4. San Antonio (SAT)

PArking garage at San Antonio International Airport, Texas
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WSJ Score: 65

Next down the list is another “San” city, but one that isn’t in California. The midsize airport that serves the south-central Texas city of San Antonio scored 70 for reliability and 63 for convenience, according to the Wall Street Journal.

5. Portland (PDX)

Portland International Airport, Oregon
Alexander Oganezov / Shutterstock.com

WSJ Score: 65

Back on the West Coast, another midsized airport rounds out the top five. The city where it’s located may not be the Portland you want to retire in, but it’s a nice place to visit if you enjoy the mountains and evergreens of the Pacific Northwest.

The worst airports

Woman looking a her phone in the airport
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Up next are the worst airports in the U.S. — and it’s probably no coincidence that they’re all large ones.

1. Newark (EWR)

Newark International Airport, New Jersey
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WSJ Score: 19

The most abysmal score in the Wall Street Journal’s rankings goes to the airport for this New Jersey city, a place that just can’t seem to catch a break. This year the city was called the country’s most dirty.

As we recently reported, about 7.6% of flights at Newark Liberty International Airport end up canceled. That’s certainly reflected in its extremely low reliability score of 7 in the WSJ report.

2. New York JFK (JFK)

JFK Airport in New York
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WSJ Score: 24

Nearby John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) did not escape the disapproval of travelers, who saw 3.6% of their flights here canceled between late May and mid-July. That helps explain JFK’s low reliability score of 10.

3. Fort Lauderdale (FLL)

Fort Lauderdale International Airport, Florida
Gabriele Maltinti / Shutterstock.com

WSJ Score: 36

We included Fort Lauderdale as one of “7 of the Best Places to Retire on the East Coast,” but — if you’re not from the area — a scenic drive down State Road A1A, which runs the length of Florida’s Atlantic coast, might be less stressful than flying in to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

4. Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)

Rental car area in Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, Texas
Lost_in_the_Midwest / Shutterstock.com

WSJ Score: 36

Texas has one of the country’s best airports in San Antonio, but sadly also one of the worst with DFW, at the heart of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. The air itself is bad in the metro area, which ranks among “15 Expensive U.S. Cities With the Worst Air Quality.”

5. Miami (MIA)

Miami International Airport, Florida
Philip Lange / Shutterstock.com

WSJ Score: 37

Miami has the next major airport south of Fort Lauderdale’s, and it’s only slightly less frustrating. If you’re headed to the Caribbean or Latin America, however, brace yourself — you may not be able to avoid passing through since Miami International Airport offers the most flights to those destinations.

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