T+L’s Best/Worst Airport Lists

The Big Apple is the big winner in the “Worst Airports” category

Travel + Leisure just revealed its list of the country’s Best and Worst Airports. When it comes to the worst, the Big Apple’s three airports earn rotten apple honors by occupying three of the top (or is it bottom?) spots on the magazine’s Worst list. That includes the (un)coveted top place that goes to LaGuardia — outdated, unserved by any kind of rail system, inconvenient public buses, and with a deteriorating infrastructure. Every time in the last 12 years or so that I’ve been to LaGuardia in the rain (which seems every time I fly use it), the concourse roof has had multiple leaks. And did I mention the confusing signs?

The T+L writeup actually didn’t mention any of those flaws. The reasons given for LGA’s ranking were described thus: “Dilapidated La Guardia hasn’t aged well. The airport has the dubious honor of ranking the worst for the check-in and security process, the worst for baggage handling, the worst when it comes to providing Wi-Fi, the worst at staff communication, and the worst design and cleanliness. If there was a ray of hope, its location, which ranked 16th, was considered superior to six other airports.” The only bright light on the LGA picture appears to be the NYC Airporter, which claims to offer “free WiFi and a relaxing, stress-free airport ride on a climate controlled, hybrid vehicle to or from NYC’s Airports” from midtown Manhattan, costing “from $12.” I’ve never used that service because I try to avoid LGA.

The way “location” is valued is interesting. Although it is seriously flawed by most measures, LGA is considered “superior,” locationwise, because it is “close” to Manhattan. It is in miles, but methinks the respondents to the T+L survey never sat in a bus or taxi crawling toward the Queens Midtown Tunnel, the 59th Street Bridge or the Triborough Bridge — and if the latter by taxi, having to pay the toll in addition to the sky-high cab fare.

By contrast (and what a contrast it is!), Denver International Airport ranked #9 in the Best Airports listing. What pulled it down was “location,” because it is multi-miles from downtown Denver. But those miles are easy — a straight shot on Interstate 70, which is sometimes slow here and there but nothing like endless New York jams, and then onto Denver city streets that also are not as constipated as New York city streets. Lightrail is being extended from downtown Denver to DIA, and meanwhile, RTD’s SkyRide charges $11 one-way to the downtown Market Street Station.

In reading these  survey results, I realized that one of the reasons I have visited New York less in the past five years than any during my previous 15 years in Colorado is the sheer unpleasantness of getting there and leaving via any of the city’s three airports, most especially LGA. Art-filled, light-filled DIA always provides a pleasant departure venue (except for the secruity checkpoint part) and a better welcome home.