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U.S. Falls Short On Reaching The Top 10 Airports In The World



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Since restrictions were dropped and demand for air travel exploded in response, the American aviation sector has been falling short of the most modest of expectations.

As one of the leading nations in the Western World, many assumed the United States would have fared better in air traffic management once the health crisis subsided.

Young Female Traveler Observing Planes Parked In The Tarmac At An International Airport, Air Travel

Regrettably, that is not how things panned out: the country’s long-awaited 2022 reopening was marred by waves of flight cancellations, numerous reports of mishandled luggage, excessive security delays, and, last but not least, poor airport management.

The underwhelming performance has not gone unnoticed by consulting firm Skytrax, which excluded U.S. hubs from their top ten best airports worldwide altogether:

U.S. Airports Among The Worst-Performing In The World

Keeping up with a yearly tradition, Skytrax has unveiled its list of best airports for 2023, as voted by travelers themselves.

A Pile Of Unclaimed Luggage In An Airport, Luggage Mishandlement, Air Travel

It is perceived as one of the most accurate depictions of the state of air travel globally, seeing that airport customers get to weigh in and vote down or up on hubs they have transited in the preceding 12-month period.

Interestingly, no U.S. airports have made it to the top ten, which is dominated instead by Asian and European names.

This has only added to the embarrassment and ongoing reputational damage of American hubs, which have been singled out lately for the suboptimal service offered in comparison to their international counterparts.

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Row Of United Airlines Aircraft Parked Outside A Terminal Building In Chicago O Hare International Airport, Air Travel, United States

The highest-peaking U.S. airport on the list is Seattle-Tacoma (SEA), at number 18, up nine slots from 2022. It is the only American hub to feature inside the top twenty or even the top thirty.

The second-highest charting is Houston Hobby (HOU), at number 32.

New York’s LaGuardia (LGA) peaks at a troubling number 57, though it still outperforms Atlanta and Los Angeles International (numbers 62 and 63, respectively), and JFK (appearing at position 88).

Perhaps more shockingly, Chicago O’Hare is nowhere to be seen inside the top 100.

Singapore Changi Is The Best Airport In The World

Outdoor view of the Jewel and a flight tower at Changi Airport in Singapore

Number one on the list, Singapore Changi, is up three slots from number three in 2022, snatching the title of the world’s best airport from Doha.

This airport is best known for its impressive range of state-of-the-art amenities, including an indoor waterfall, cinemas, rooftop swimming pools, and gaming lounges.

Connectivity with the city proper is also deemed efficient, with transport options including fast-speed trains, shuttles, and buses, getting travelers into and out of the city in record time and with minimal delays.

The same cannot be said about any of New York’s airports, where taxi transfer times can easily exceed two hours at peak times.

The rain vortex at the Jewel in Changi Airport, Singapore

Why Are U.S. Airports So Bad?

The States’ infamous History of airport mismanagement, in fact, precedes COVID, though the pandemic has certainly exacerbated existing issues.

As early as 2017, the Foundation for Economic Education published a long opinion piece describing how ‘bad’ U.S. airports are and how their underperformance was then attributed to ‘government bureaucracy‘.

Young Woman Holding Her Head Looking Distressed At An International Airport, Travel Disruption

According to Michael Sargent, who wrote the piece, ‘nearly every major airport in the United States is owned by a local government or authority, such as a port authority‘.

In Sargent’s view, the ‘burdensome’ government scrutiny has resulted in inefficient, less-competitive airports.

Six years ago, the U.S. was already left out of the top ten best-ranked airports in the world, and as Sargent noted himself, the busiest airports in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, where infrastructure should, at least in theory, be one step ahead, actually ‘scrape the very bottom’ regarding customer satisfaction.

Woman walking in airport

The situation has not improved significantly in the half-decade that followed, with important airports like Dallas/Forth Worth (DFW), Denver International (DEN), Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL), and Orlando (MCO) ranking as the top-five worst in the U.S. for flight cancellations in 2022.

The fact that U.S.-based airlines have been unable to deliver on their ambitious post-pandemic promises, and have been forced to cut back on their schedule at very short notice, leading to serious disruption in many airports, particularly over busy holidays, has not helped the situation.

Chicago O Hare International Airport, Chicago, United States

Has The Situation Improved In Recent Years?

According to AirInsight, the low demand experienced during the pandemic months did help U.S. airports recover and attain a ‘steadier’ traffic flow.

Sadly, now that Americans are taking to the skies en masse, we are already back to their usual ‘bad performance’, as they put it in the latest report published on March 17.

woman looking at flight schedule at the airport

U.S. authorities have worked towards improving the quality of service in recent months, mass hiring ground staff, ensuring staffing levels are sufficient across all sectors and speeding up screening, but these measures are yet to have a long-lasting impact.

Skytrax’s top 10 best airports can be seen below:

  1. Singapore Changi
  2. Doha Hamad
  3. Tokyo Haneda
  4. Seoul Incheon
  5. Paris Charles de Gaulle
  6. Istanbul*
  7. Munich
  8. Zurich
  9. Tokyo Narita
  10. Madrid Barajas
*Istanbul International on the European side

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