Did you know it takes about 14 hours to fly from Bradley International Airport outside of Hartford, Connecticut to Yeager Airport in Charleston, West Virginia? It's true. (Well, if you fly Delta, it is.)
I was jotting some stuff down in my travel journal while waiting to board a plane at Hartsfield-Jackson International in Atlanta, and two things occurred to me: 1) I'd been to enough airports and been on enough airplanes to actually make a relatively comprehensive list of the best and worst airports our great country has to offer, and 2) I'd been either sitting in a terminal or on an airplane so long, burning through at least three magazines, a novel, several playlists on my MP3 player and wandering aimlessly that the only thing left to do was actually write said comprehensive list.
It's late right now, and I can't sleep. I'm also craving some candy -- I gave up sweets, soft drinks, etc., for Lent -- and I need something to take my mind off it. Thus, this list which, if you're needing to take a flight anytime soon -- and, really, I'd suggest finding some other method of travel; walk if you have to -- might come in handy. Call it my act of public service of the week, if you will. You're welcome.
First, a few ground rules. I've disqualified Columbus International Airport in Ohio because A) it was from CMH that I took my first flight, and I was sufficiently excited (I was 16 at the time) to render any critique of the place moot. It could have been LaGuardia and I would have thought it cool (OK, so maybe not); and, B) I didn't include Barajas International Airport in Madrid, Spain, for much the same reason: it was my first time overseas, and I was just thrilled that a man at baggage claim could understand my broken Spanish. Again, it could have been a dump and I wouldn't have cared, I was too busy grinning from ear to ear that I was in another country.
So, without further ado -- except to say that on my next long business trip (in three weeks to New York City for a few days), I'm taking Amtrak ... seriously -- here's my list of the best and worst airports I've ever had the misfortune of setting foot in. Drumroll, please ...
17) Washington-Dulles International Airport.
Pros: Um, well ...
Cons: I've never flown from IAD on time, the last time I flew there the plane almost crashed (I'm not kidding), the tiny terminal at which all planes to or from my home airport (CRW) is so small there's literally nothing to do other than walk around in circles. I just hate the place.
16) Newark-Liberty International Airport
Pros: See Washington-Dulles
Cons: Security lines are monstrosities, everyone is as rude as a Parisian waiter serving an American from the South, air traffic is so bad you can't get anywhere on time, the hallways are narrow, the bathrooms are dirty ... I could go on.
15) Detroit-Wayne County
Pros: See Newark-Liberty
Cons: It's old, dirty and getting to baggage claim is like navigating Pan's Labyrinth.
14) Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Atlanta
Pros: It's big enough that there's plenty of places to eat, get a cold drink, a magazine, etc.
Cons: It's the busiest airport in the East, so good luck getting anywhere on time. No one seems to know what they're doing. Your departure gate will change at least five times ... if you're lucky. The hallways are pretty wide, but there are so many people there's still nowhere to walk. ATL is just too, too busy.
13) New York-LaGuardia
Pros: Flying in and out is always a treat, just for the views of the city.
Cons: Very, very dirty, and the hallways are more narrow than Nicole Richie's waist.
12) Roy Rogers International Airport (Oklahoma City)
Pros: Very wide hallways. Very quiet, and not at all busy so you can get away from people.
Cons: Security there is as tight as anywhere I've been, which isn't a bad thing until it takes you an hour to get through. If you're hungry, you have a choice of ... well, very little, in fact. I think there are two restaurants, and both serve cold food. Yum.
11) Chicago-O'Hare International Airport
Pros: I've been to large shopping malls that have fewer stores. Hallways are wide, and there are lots of places to sit.
Cons: It's as busy as ATL.
10) Bradley International Airport, Hartford
Pros: It's small, laid back. In the Delta terminal there are these great comfortable sofas that are fantastic for napping.
Cons: The in-terminal airport staff are so clueless, I had to tell a guy at the Delta terminal at what airports to look for additional flights to get me on when mine was cancelled. He apparently doesn't know what a computer is.
9) Providence/T.F. Green International Airport
Pros: Again, it's small, laid back.
Cons: Bring a book. There's nothing else to do when you get there.
8) Syracuse-Hancock International Airport
Pros: Another small, quiet airport.
Cons: The weather can be brutal, making for some rough flights in and out.
7) Philadelphia International Airport
Pros: Ground transportation is really convenient. The city views flying in and out are pretty cool.
Cons: It's another busy, busy airport.
TOP SIX COMING TOMORROW.