Airports to avoid / favorite airports
March 17, 2009 11:14 PM   Subscribe

What airports do you try to avoid in western Europe and North America?Also what are your favorite airports in western Europe and North America?

I am arranging a flight from Minneapolis to Nice. Normally we fly MSP - Amsterdam - Nice, but that route is not available this time. Now we are looking at MSP - O'Hare - Zurich - Nice; or MSP - Toronto - London - Nice; or MSP - O'Hare - London - Nice. Can anyone comment on airports they would definitely avoid on this route? For example, we always try to avoid Charle de Gaulle if possible. Thanks
posted by pandabearjohnson to Travel & Transportation (59 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Chicago O'hare. Awful.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:23 PM on March 17, 2009

Heathrow used to be a nightmare. It's been years since I've flown through there so maybe it's improved.
posted by rdr at 11:29 PM on March 17, 2009

I'd avoid O'Hare. Which London, though?
posted by crinklebat at 11:29 PM on March 17, 2009

Avoid O'Hare at all costs - delays are horrible, food is expensive even for airports (more important for longer layovers), and it's just a beast to navigate if you're not used to it.
posted by honeybee413 at 11:45 PM on March 17, 2009

Hubs to avoid: Dulles, Boston, Heathrow, Gatwick. Heathrow more than Gatwick, because of the trek between terminals, but Gatwick's little better. Once you land in Schiphol, it's hard to go back.

I like Toronto, but you do have to clear CBSA when connecting. I dislike Detroit Metropolitan, because it's a dull hermetically-sealed tube, but it's not that bad an airport for connections, and links up well between MSP and Europe. Looked at MSP-DTW-AMS-NCE?

Frankfurt feels as if it has a layer of grime outside the secure area, and it's also pretty dull (lino dull rather than carpeted dull) but again, it's not been a source of mental trauma for me. (EasyJet does Barcelona-Nice, but that would mean breaking your through-flight.)
posted by holgate at 11:45 PM on March 17, 2009

- Heathrow used to be sorta fun a decade ago, then it got bad and from what I've heard only worse in recent years.
- Zurich is fine. I don't know if I like the new Terminal E in the middle of the airport, but it is an easy place to get around.
- Frankfurt will suck your soul out. It's that boring. I've read recently that Munich has been recently radically improved.
- Malpensa in Milan was an unmitigated disaster last time I was there.
- The airports in the Nordics are generally small and efficient places to get through; Stockholm, Helsinki
posted by michswiss at 12:05 AM on March 18, 2009

NOT the flight that goes via both O'Hare AND Heathrow.

I went through Heathrow about a year and half ago, and it was a straight up nightmare. HUGE lineups, no organization, just awful. I went through O'Hare a month ago, and even though it wasn't a busy time of day it was still a terribly long time getting through customs and security. I nearly missed my connecting flight because of that.

/puts gun to temple, *KAPOW*
posted by keep it under cover at 12:25 AM on March 18, 2009

Just to throw a wrench in the works, I've got to say that I lived in Chicago up until a few years ago, flew into/out of O'Hare about 4-5 times/year and frequently had visitors fly in there as well, and rarely experienced any problems - actually I only remember one flight ever being canceled, and I suspect that had more to do with the carrier (United, grrrrr) than the airport.

Of course it's quite possible that fool's luck carried me through all my flights so I'm not necessarily urging you to book a flight through it - I just wanted to chime in and say not to sweat it if it turns out you prefer one of your O'Hare options overall. Personally I might even go so far as to say I like O'Hare.
posted by DingoMutt at 12:26 AM on March 18, 2009

I agree with avoiding O'Hare - the selection of food isn't very good but is expensive, electrical outlets are not convenient, and the layout is rather awkward [though I might be biased by having problems with United everytime I've been there]
posted by radicarian at 12:33 AM on March 18, 2009

Agreed about Frankfurt. Some sections are OK, other sections are very dingy and dated.
posted by barc0001 at 12:39 AM on March 18, 2009

Favorite US hub: Denver! Great restaurants.

Least Favorite US airport: Philadelphia (PHL) because of the US Air presence. Worst airline I've ever flown.
posted by zippy at 12:56 AM on March 18, 2009

You could also try asking at the FlyerTalk forums.
posted by jeeves at 1:22 AM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Heathrow is as bad as everyone says. Copenhagen Kastrup is about as good as it gets in my experience.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 1:47 AM on March 18, 2009

To add to jeeves recommendation, the best flyertalk forum to ask or search for an answer to a question like yours is in Travelbuzz.

There are also specific forums for most, if not all major US, European and Asian airlines. If you are planning on sticking to a particular airline or alliance, it's also a good idea to search those forums as well.
posted by michswiss at 1:49 AM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Heathrow - 7th circle of hell and nothing good ever comes from there. Unbelieveable horrible and bad. Stay Away. Big fucking mall area that's like 15-30 minutes from your flight isn't bad, but it's very very very far away from the gates.

Paris - Old information, but we had to go outside of security to get to our connecting flight. People cut in line, and it sucked. Also, I think one of the terminals collapsed.

Rome - Madhouse, also old information. Checkin took a long time. People cut in line.

Frankfurt - No place to eat, pretty clean for transfers, loves to strand you in Germany for the hell of it. Spent 20 minutes watching one of the lufthansa clerks explain to someone who was stuck in the airport (canceled flight, no visa) that they were an airline, not a country.

Munich - Not bad, but you have to go through security all the fucking time, even when disembarking a plane. Duty Free Liquor has to get tossed out. Confusing if you try to catch a transfer very very very late at night.

Amsterdam - Okay, has a weird security setup. You get stuff put into a sealed bag so you can bring it on a plane. Food is meh. They don't sell chewing gum at all.

Barcelona - Nice, food is okay. Lots of high end shops and food places. Unsure how long it'll stay that way. Train from city is cheap, but a long walk away if you have crappy or heavy luggage.

Helsinki - Gorgeous and quiet. Some funky shops, including moomins. Cheapest place to get bottled water is the duty free across from the Stockmann outlet I think. Great parquet floors.

Denver - Creepy airport, hideous weather, lots of delays. If you miss a connection they send you to a hotel with no rooms left.

Cincinatti - Grossest smoking lounge in the history of smoking lounge. Caused me to quit smoking while sitting there trying to smoke with a 104 degree fever, shivering uncontrollably in this dripping brown-walled enclosure, watching some dude sit across from me and eat cincinatti chili and smoke. Blech

Houston - All of the international flights are always delayed, but there's fair food. Good chairs and waiting area.

San Diego - Light and airy, but too small.

Oakland - Nondescript, but too far away from downtown SF.

Newark - Funny as hell and home to the meanest customer service people I have ever interacted with. Lady at the A+W hamburger place shouting at the dude in front of me about ketchup, other lady shouting at people at the Ben and Jerry's shop.

Austin - Nice, Quiet, horrific approximations of local food. Near Lockhart so you can get good barbecue.

Orlando - Near flawless, good flow. Missed my flight because I was fucking around in the shops.

Stansted - Good train connections to a Giant warehouse single room full of the english. Take that as you will.

Miami - Might be out of date, Smells and looks like an airport that got wet and never dried out. No place to eat inside of security.

Norfolk - Light, Airy, low-key and pleasant. A+W hamburger place was good after flight, long walk to rental cars.

DFW, Atlanta - Just airports. No positive thoughts.
posted by Lord_Pall at 1:51 AM on March 18, 2009 [5 favorites]

I avoid Charles de Gaulle as well since my luggage always gets lost there but heathrow is consistently clogged and frankfurt nuts about security. it's a big airport thing. great are london city airport, long beach airport and operations of that size.

ohare has been okay to me (I don't blame them for the nine hours I spent in a jet blue plane on the tarmac) and so has jfk but la guardia seems to always have endless lines for takeoff. you need to avoid afternoon and evening flights out of midwestern airports in the summer.

continental is flying into hamburg, which is a relatively small airport but has a connection to nice, directly from newark. you most likely won't have to suffer any delays on the european side with that route.
posted by krautland at 1:55 AM on March 18, 2009

(Here's when a little more research on my part before posting or an edit function in AskMe would have been helpful)...

I did a search on flyertalk and came up with this thread for the most efficient airport. There were several other results as well. I searched for "Worst Airport". AMS showed up regularly as a popular transit airport for travellers out of the US.
posted by michswiss at 2:04 AM on March 18, 2009

I find good weather trumps all other airport concerns. Connect in sunnier climes. I pay more to fly straight from southern California to Europe nonstop just because I never want to be "held" on the tarmac for six hours or whatever because of thunderstorms or snow when we depart.

Maybe MSP-Miami-Amsterdam-Nice? Or MSP-Atlanta-Paris-Nice? If you're used to flying NW or DL, you'd still be able to collect miles (perhaps) on Air France.
posted by mdonley at 2:25 AM on March 18, 2009

A couple of years ago Salon's "Ask the Pilot" column produced a list of the world's best and worst airports. But the final choice for the worst was Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport in Senegal. I know we are talking about US and European airports but "seventh circle of hell" comparisons need to be validated by comparing with a few in, say, Africa.

Anyway - Nice has a pretty good airport at least: there is a wonderful view of the city, the coast and the alps if you get a clear day.
posted by rongorongo at 3:12 AM on March 18, 2009

I fly through Heathrow every few months (American Airlines to JFK) and have had no problems in the last 2 years, either with lines or delays, but then I always give myself more than enough time to get through any lines. I don't recall any queues that I'd consider excessive though. In Terminal 3 the gates are miles away from the passenger lounge, so once you see your flight called, have that bathroom break, start walking and - this is really important - before you go through the gate take another bathroom break.

UK airports (Heathrow and Gatwick, anyway, It's been years since I flew through Stansted) have this peculiarity that I've not found in the States where, once you go to the gate for your flight, you have to go through another, separate, security check at the gate, which is not an 'open' gate as you find in the States where you can wander around and buy a sandwich, go to the restroom, etc., it's a separate large room with drinks machines, a TV but no toilets. The security check covers a second examination of your passport and ticket and can involve random pat-down searches and a detailed search of your hand luggage. I had a problem once when I was asked to take the battery out of my cellphone. I had no clue how to do this (the man in the shop did it when I bought it).

If your flight's delayed once you're at the gate, there's no access to any toilets. In any event, even without delays it's usually a wait of 45 minutes to an hour between getting into the departure lounge and actually boarding the plane. Then you find that once people board, the first thing they do is use the toilet, which makes boarding more difficult as people are trying to get down the aisles with their carry-on, as others are making their way back to their seats.

I haven't flown through O'Hare for over 3 years, when they were obviously doing a lot of rebuilding work. I don't recall any major difficulties, and they had toilets with self-covering seats which were somewhat cool, if a little unnecessary (what is it with Americans and their obsession with toilet seat covers?)

Favourite airport - Charlotte. Spacious, airy public areas, rocking chairs everywhere, a pianist playing a white grand piano, some lovely little shops, and very pleasant staff. But none of that makes up for the fact that it is a US Airways hub. US Airways is the worst airline I have ever flown with and I will never willingly do so again.
posted by essexjan at 3:36 AM on March 18, 2009

Oh God, Charles de Gaulle is awful. Orly is ok though, so you could try and go that way. I had nightmare times at Venice Marco Polo, but Treviso was ok (partly because it's just so tiny). The nicest airport I've been through in Europe is Madrid, at least T4 is nice anyway.
posted by Emilyisnow at 4:13 AM on March 18, 2009

Would second Charlotte, NC as one the most pleasant airports I've ever waited in. Music, light, rocking chairs. Lots of people movers, too, if that matters. Can't agree that Madrid was a pleasant place to wait.
posted by birdwatcher at 4:32 AM on March 18, 2009

I fly Toronto - LHR about once a month on both Air Canada and BA (they go through different Heathrow terminals, 3 & 5). I would avoid LHR if at all possible, especially if you want to see your luggage again. Keep in mind that you may have to switch terminals at LHR for a connecting flight and you do not want to do this. Really.

The new Terminal 1 at Toronto doesn't have great facilities, but as someone who goes through there more often than a human being should, the flights do generally leave on time as long as there isn't snow.
posted by meerkatty at 4:35 AM on March 18, 2009

O'Hare is a delight compared to Miami. Unless you enjoy walking for 30 minutes down freezing cold hallways to reach your gate.
posted by jasondigitized at 4:43 AM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm just going to plug Raleigh-Durham International (RDU) and hope this is still true: the last time I was there they *still* had one bar very near the gates and beyond security where you could smoke a goddamn cigarette with your beer while waiting for your flight.

Now that, my friends, is civilized travel old-school style. Most American airports barely let you smoke on airport grounds *anywhere* now.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:47 AM on March 18, 2009

I despise O'Hare with a particular passion to the point that I write odes of hate to it.

Heathrow's a close second but has the saving grace of wonderful, awesome, life-saving showers available (in the red-carpet lounges but also pay-ones for those not traveling richly).

Newark's 3rd on my blacklist - their baggage service is horrendous - worse than most African airports I've traveled through, and the facilities outside the main Continental terminal are for shite.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:52 AM on March 18, 2009

I used to hate Heathrow, but I flew BA via Heathrow from Vienna to Houston over the Christmas holidays and was pleasantly surprised.

I had a long layover at Heathrow on my outbound trip. Terminal 5 is like a mall with a bunch of shops, restaurants and bars to choose from. I'm not a big "spend time at the mall" person, but I'd rather be stuck in a mall than a super crappy lifeless airport terminal with nothing but cheap fast food and newsstands for five hours. Terminal 5 also has tons of seating outside of shops / restaurants, in case you just want to chill or take a nap.

My layover was shorter on the return leg of my trip, but I didn't have any problems at all going through security checkpoints in order to reach my connecting flight.
posted by syzygy at 4:59 AM on March 18, 2009

O'Hare can be survivable if you're flying through at a low-volume time (early afternoon or late evening) and the time of year isn't prone to weather delays (which practically speaking means April, May, September, or October.) And even then there's no guarantee.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:05 AM on March 18, 2009

I flew through Heathrow Terminal 5 recently, and it seems to have recovered from its initial difficulties and was a very pleasant place to be for a little while before our flight left. I don't fly often, though, and YMMV.
posted by altolinguistic at 5:22 AM on March 18, 2009

Heathrow used to be a nightmare. It's been years since I've flown through there so maybe it's improved.

Depends on the terminal. 5 is quite nice (and now works). 4 is okay. 1-3 are old and run-down. I believe they're up for refurbishment soon.

Schipol is stupid big but seems to work and there's plenty to do and see if you're waiting. Ditto for Vancouver.
posted by outlier at 6:00 AM on March 18, 2009

If you're a smoker, you can't beat Salt Lake City. I was there last year, and there was a smoking lounge in viewing distance of the gate.

Worst for me has been Houston, but I'm biased...I've been stranded there twice.
posted by JaredSeth at 6:13 AM on March 18, 2009

Maybe because I use it a lot and only as a return/departure, O'Hare is pretty good. Out of all the airports that I have used for transfer, Heathrow is the worst and Frankfurt takes a close second. Frankfurt probably sucks only when flying American. The bad thing about Heathrow that I have had and others continually have is the useless and poorly trained personnel. I have seen serious arguments between their screeners.
posted by JJ86 at 6:18 AM on March 18, 2009

Zurich is fine. I don't know if I like the new Terminal E in the middle of the airport, but it is an easy place to get around.

Zurich Airport is also one of the most boring places on earth. And there's nowhere to sit since they took out all the seats. If you're going to be there any longer than a couple of hours try to get out into the city - it's only 10 minutes away by train (a round trip was less than €10 when I did it).
posted by macdara at 6:26 AM on March 18, 2009

Stay far far away from Heathrow and Logan.

For the most shit awful airport experience ever go to LAX. Avoid like a rabid, hungry, mangy and flea ridden plague dog.

Denver is quite nice.
posted by tip120 at 6:27 AM on March 18, 2009

The Atlanta airport itself is OK, but try to avoid having a connecting flight through Atlanta in the late afternoon or evening; chances of a missed connection or major delay are higher than a lot of other hubs.

O'Hare is bad but Midway is worse.

the Lisbon airport is the nicest one I've been to, Bucharest (not that you'd likely go through there) was the worst one overall for everything- terrible service, lack of food, outdated, corrupt cab drivers, and just all-around unpleasant. I've avoided Heathrow and CDG just from all of the stories I've heard from others. Only place I've gotten into it with a screener was Biarritz, they made me toss my allen wrench tool and the security guy's breath reeked of booze.
posted by Challahtronix at 6:29 AM on March 18, 2009

For the love of god, do NOT go O'Hare -> Heathrow. That's asking for trouble.

Both Zürich and Munich are pretty decent. Not thrillingly exciting, but there's food, places to sit, power outlets, etc., and my experiences in both have been pretty painless.

On the US side, I'd avoid Logan (Boston) if possible when doing international flights; most of the food and shops and stuff in that terminal are helpfully before security.
posted by ubersturm at 6:36 AM on March 18, 2009

Favorite airport to connect through: Pittsburgh. Small enough to not be a disaster, with nice amenities. In New York, JFK is decent, though the lineups can get a little crowded. LaGuardia is full of doom, but you won't be going there if you are going international. When I went to Nice, I connected through CDG and found it perfectly pleasant, though part of the terminal collapsed later that day, so uh ... I dunno.
posted by dame at 7:02 AM on March 18, 2009

I described my terrible experience in Madrid in an earlier thread.
posted by rustcellar at 7:35 AM on March 18, 2009

Geneva is dreadful. It has queues that cross other queues, queues in places where there's no room to queue, and places to wait that have lots of expensive shops but no seats.
posted by emilyw at 7:44 AM on March 18, 2009

I recently flew through Heathrow on the way to NCE, actually. It was so gross and awful. It took at least 45 minutes to just get from the plane to the other terminal and most of that was walking through these rat-maze like things. I got the distinct feeling the place I was trying to get to was just on the other side of the wall but we needed to take a bus. And then everything is too crowded, hard to get a seat, forget about power, etc etc and then when they let you in the gate you're in this holding pen that's too hot and bright and filled with people just standing there for another 30 minutes before you board..
posted by neustile at 7:48 AM on March 18, 2009

Avoid at all costs: Delta into or out of JFK. If you must, don't bring any heavy luggage because you'll be dragging it down stairs and over narrow sidewalks to get anywhere else. Otherwise, while there are often delays, the air train to Jamaica station allowing you to catch a LIRR to Long Island or Penn Station is somewhat convenient.

Awesome: Schiphol (Amsterdam). If you are a resident or otherwise familiar with the train systems, trains straight to or from Amsterdam Central Station go directly through the airport downstairs (or nice wide moving-sidewalk-type escalator) from the main lobby area. The place is also always clean and tidy. It is my favorite airport by far, though I haven't been through any of those future-ports in East Asia.
posted by rocketpup at 7:51 AM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

In the US, I avoid JFK, O'Hare and Atlanta. I like Burbank and Austin. Charlotte is actually a decent airport, as is Houston (Bush). Denver is too big, but the food is decent and I like the trains.

In Europe, I love Schiphol and Venice. I avoid Linate (outside Milan) and any airport within an hour of London. Come to think of it, if you're going to the UK, just ride the train and save yourself the hassle.
posted by charlesv at 8:23 AM on March 18, 2009

Everything rocketpup said.

Delta + JFK = ^#*($!
posted by bluestocking at 8:46 AM on March 18, 2009

I've flown in and out of Heathrow and Gatwick and I have to say, customs/immigration is easier coming IN to Heathrow. The agents in Gatwick are miserable bastards and I had one threaten to "bounce my bum back to the continent" (it was more scary than it sounds, I swear). The agents at Heathrow were mostly pleasant and perfunctory. I'm ambivalent about flying out of either. The lines were longer and slower at Gatwick and once we sat on the tarmac for two hours waiting to takeoff - although to be fair, the Airbus A380 had just made its first British landing at Gatwick a couple hours earlier. All the waiting I've done at Heathrow has been at the gate.

Schiphol is lovely.

Cardiff is small and lacking in amenities, but the staff are really nice.

LAX, especially the international terminal, is the ninth ring of Hell.

SFO is mediocre.

JFK sucks.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:47 AM on March 18, 2009

Copenhagen Kastrup is about as good as it gets in my experience.

I would take major issue with that statement. If transferring from Eurozone to US-bound flights, the distance between gates can be immense. And the way they lose luggage like it's going out of fashion is not cool. Probably because the airport is freaking huge.
posted by fiercekitten at 8:54 AM on March 18, 2009

My favourite airport is probably Copenhagen Kastrup. It's just lovely. I'm a big fan of Amsterdam Schipol but the novelty factor has worn off as I've been through it so many times. Barcelona isn't bad. I pretty much hate all London airports but Heathrow has always been the most convenient for me. I was really impressed with T5 when I had a connecting flight through it last summer, it's nice and feels like a European airport and not a dump like the other terminals. Newark is, like someone said above, the most unfriendly airport in the world but it's actually not bad as airports go. LAX isn't great, but my least favourite airport in the entire word is London Gatwick. I fucking loathe that place.
posted by ob at 9:45 AM on March 18, 2009

Another vote for Miami. There is a reason why their airport code is MIA.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 10:02 AM on March 18, 2009

My two cents: Chicago O'Hare isn't that bad as long as you're not flying in the winter.
posted by soleiluna at 10:15 AM on March 18, 2009

We flew through Frankfurt, Zurich and Nice with a three month old baby last year, so my filters are all set to how wheel-friendly an airport is (stroller/wheelchair/what have you.) On this standard, Frankfurt sucks ass ferociously. Almost every transfer required stairs, and sometimes there was an elevator around, and sometimes there wasn't, and once we had to hump our stuff, baby ambrosia and the stroller up three flights of stairs to make our transfer. And the metal detectors in the security lines were calibrated to ridiculous levels of sensitivity- so that the snaps in the crotch of my baby's onesie set off the metal detector. This happened at three different security checkpoints, so I don't think it was a fluke. And, on top of it, dreadfully dull interior.

Zurich was fine. Much easier to get around in. Nice was okay.
posted by ambrosia at 10:24 AM on March 18, 2009

Every time I fly from Toronto home to Dublin it's through Heathrow and I've had no issues there at all. The lines for the xray machines are long, but the staff there are uniformly more pleasant than those this side of the pond, and I don't mind the walk or bus between terminals - it's actually pleasant to stretch legs after a transatlantic flight. And the toilets are clean and the mall area has a decent range of food (you can get actual fresh fruit and fresh sandwiches) and distractions, even to window shop rather than buy anything. There are FAR worse airports to spend a couple of hours. I suppose if you have a short layover it could be really stressful, but that can be planned. We've never lost luggage there in a dozen or so trips, generally with Air Canada/BMI.

I've never changed planes in Toronto, but it's a nice airy airport in any terminal I've used, and the security etc lines seem to be organized. It's an awful boring place to sit and wait for a flight though.
posted by jamesonandwater at 10:26 AM on March 18, 2009

Tegucigalpa, Honduras. One of the most dangerous airports in the world. Hey, it's still North America. See: cockpit view of a landing. ::shiver::
posted by changeling at 10:59 AM on March 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Denver International has always treated me well, and the weather is actually usually pretty good. It's spacious, bright, efficient, and, although I had a really bad and expensive burrito there, the food is good if you know where to look.

I have to second Schiphol as well. It's great having trains right there, and when I went (in January) the airport was very clean.

My brief encounter with Newark was that it was confusing and there was a lot of anger in the air, and Detroit Metro has always been kind of "meh" for me.

Washington-Dulles is a craphole, and they have a horrible system of moving people from terminal to terminal. I've heard several people say they missed flights because of this.

Wow, I didn't realize I've been to so many airports.
posted by elder18 at 11:25 AM on March 18, 2009

Am I oblivious, absurdly lucky or something? I've been through LHR plenty of times, gobs of flights domestic and national at LAX, JFK, ORD, IAH, etc., etc., etc.

Sure some experiences have been better than others, but none have been anywhere close to as bad as described repeatedly above--which, frankly, come across as whiny.

It's a freakin' airport.

There's a decent chance there will be at least minor-to-moderate aggro.
posted by ambient2 at 11:29 AM on March 18, 2009

Wow, Honduras is beautiful.

Re the original question, Atlanta isn't a bad choice if you have enough time to transfer--there are plenty of all types of amenities--but if you have less than an hour, I can virtually guarantee you willing be running from a gate at the end of one terminal to the inter-terminal shuttle, and then running from the shuttle to the end of another terminal. They are long, and people-movers are nonexistent.
posted by kittyprecious at 11:32 AM on March 18, 2009

Heathrow is fine if you're using T5, less so for any other terminal. Gatwick is better than Heathrow in general, but still not great at all. Both seem to always have construction work going on, and are really not designed for the capacity they hold.

Stansted is relatively nice, but unlikely to feature on your proposed trip. Luton doesn't get enough mention for being awful, in my mind.

I actually enjoyed Charles de Gaulle (although I was short-haul, hand luggage only).

Detroit I love (and Heathrow have picked up on the whole train thing for T5). MSP I love a lot less so - it's the Gatwick of North America, fine but nothing that great, and bordering bad.
posted by djgh at 12:53 PM on March 18, 2009

Ooh, almost forgot the one that most wigged me out: Male International Airport in the Maldives is basically just a landing strip in the water, and they actually land jumbo jets there.
posted by JaredSeth at 1:01 PM on March 18, 2009

Frankfurt is massive and confusing (I went through customs twice), but it has trolleys that can go on escalators, resulting in hours of people watching fun, so I forgive it. Heathrow is busy and noisy and disorganised.

Personally airports would be the last thing on my list to choose a flight from, but if it's important to you, google the "minimum transit time" for an airport. Then stay away from airports with long minimum times, as this implies queues and buses and madness, and stay away from flights that have transit times not that much longer than the minimum, as that implies stress and running between gates.
posted by kjs4 at 5:24 PM on March 18, 2009

Oakland (OAK) is nice. Especially if you're not flying Southwest, you can still show up like 50 minutes beforehand and casually stroll on. insert disclaimer YMMV

Dulles (IAD) is not only annoying due to their trolley system, but the security guards seem militaristic.
posted by salvia at 7:13 PM on March 18, 2009

Pittsburgh is nice, but as I recall we've lost just about all our international flights. In fact, while PIT used to be a US Air hub, even that's been dropped, so there's just about no way you'd ever be transferring through it anymore or coming here at all if it's not actually where you wanted to end at. Which is a shame, it's one of the better airports in the Midwest.
posted by FlyingMonkey at 7:20 PM on March 19, 2009

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