By Sarah Waffle Gavin, on May 22, 2014

The best and worst airports

For most of us, time spent at the airport is NOT one of the favorite parts of the travel experience. Going through security alone leaves much to be desired (especially when you’re all dolled up and have to take off your cute jacket and stilettos). Don’t even get us started on the parking and public transportation situation at most airports (or the overpriced food and WiFi, for which you also often have to pay).

There must be some airports that stand above the rest, right? We recently surveyed our Expedia Elite Plus members—those members with the highest ranking in the Expedia Rewards customer loyalty program—and asked them to share with us their favorite and least favorite airports for our 2014 “High Fliers Survey.”

Survey results included some surprising tidbits. For starters, our respondents tabbed the following five airports as their faves: Hartsfield-Jackson Airport (ATL) in Atlanta; Denver International Airport (DEN); O’Hare International Airport (ORD) in Chicago; Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW); and Orlando International Airport (MCO). The same group of Expedia Elite Plus members ranked the following five airports as their *least* favorite: ATL; ORD; George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston; John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York; and LaGuardia Airport (LGA), also in New York.

Read that last paragraph closely and you’ll notice something interesting: ATL appears at the top of both lists. That means our survey respondents both love AND hate the airport in Atlanta. (Personally I can relate to this, considering the size and expanse of ATL, as well as the work required to get from the international terminal to the domestic terminal via shuttle.)

Curiously, Atlanta also topped the list in the category of “Best Food and Beverage Airports.” It just so happens that the airport is home to one of my favorite airport restaurants in the world: One Flew South. This eatery features everything from a sushi bar to a menu boasting handcrafted cocktails, as well as entrees using locally sourced ingredients. Sometimes I’ll fly through ATL just to dine here.

Other airports on the “Best F&B” list included ORD, JFK, and San Francisco International Airport (SFO). I can see why JFK made that list, as the state-of-the-art Terminal 5 recently upgraded the airport experience with 29 retail shops and 36 food and beverage outlets, including Deep Blue Sushi and AeroNuova. O’Hare also is a no-brainer for F&B title; the airport should win the distinction for one restaurant alone—Tortas Frontera, a product of Rick Bayless, a well-known American chef and Top Chef Masters winner. (Also unique to ORD is an outpost of Garrett Popcorn, considered one of the best popcorn shops in the country.) As for SFO, the addition of Terminal 2 has expanded the food offerings tremendously, and the airport emphasizes restaurants with connections to local communities. Two examples: Yankee Pier and The Plant Café, both of which are Bay Area restaurants.

Our High Fliers Survey gathered other information, including information about travelers’ favorite leisure and business destinations, and more. To read the full High Fliers Survey results, click here.