Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
The Best U.S. Airports for Layovers [2023 Data Study]
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The infamous layover — whether you love or hate them, they’re undeniably part of long journeys. Airport layovers allow you to stretch your legs, savor a meal, or even engage in a little retail therapy. However, not all airports are created equal in the realm of layovers. Your layover experience can either be a serene oasis or a maddening ordeal, and it often hinges on your choice of airport.
To determine the best airports for layovers, we analyzed 50 of the busiest airports in the nation and ranked them on various factors. Our criteria encompassed essential elements like the number of lounges, dining options, and charging stations. So, whether you’re yearning for a layover paradise or pondering a change of flight plans, read on to discover which U.S. airports are your best bet.
The 15 Best U.S. Airports for a Layover
Many Americans may experience planned or unplanned layovers during their travels. However, these layovers don’t have to be a source of misery. Depending on the airport you find yourself in, you can actually make the most of your time there. We’ve identified the top 5 U.S. airports for layovers based on several factors, including the number of terminals, gates, on-site hotels, restaurants, and more:
- San Diego International Airport (SAN) — 76.8 out of 100
- Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Aiport (SJC) — 70.4 out of 100
- Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) — 68.8 out of 100
- Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) — 67.8 out of 100
- John Wayne Airport (SNA) — 66.6 out of 100
San Diego International Airport clinched the top spot on our list, scoring 76.8 out of 100. SAN boasts an impressive array of amenities, including 36 restaurants, 41 shopping options, and 13 charging stations per mile. SAN is even home to a wine and tapas bar, so you can enjoy a charcuterie board and a glass of red wine during your layover. Notably, it also offers a wide range of nearby hotels (24) and a substantial number of off-airport restaurants (57) per 10,000 daily passengers — ensuring travelers can make the most of their longer layovers.
Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport is one of the best airports for layovers, securing the second spot with a score of 70.4 out of 100. Despite its relatively small size, with just 2 terminals and 12 gates, this airport is designed for easy navigation. Additionally, it offers blazing-fast Wi-Fi with a download speed of 203 Mbps — perfect for those looking to get work done or connect with loved ones from the airport.
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport claims the third spot with a score of 68.8 out of 100. It boasts an impressive 80% on-time departure rate (the fifth highest in the study) and offers travelers 4.1 lounges per mile, along with over 26 charging stations per mile — making it a comfortable layover destination. DCA is home to 3 American Airlines Admirals Clubs, which boast amenities such as complimentary food and drinks, full-service bars, and more, making your layover more enjoyable than ever.
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and John Wayne Airport secured the fourth and fifth spots, respectively, with scores of 67.8 and 66.6 out of 100. AUS boasts 51 off-site restaurants nearby per 10,000 passengers and an average TSA wait time of just 6 minutes — ensuring you can leave, dine, and re-enter on time. Meanwhile, SNA reports average arrival delays of just 50 minutes, ranking among the lowest in the study. With only 22 gates, you can easily reach your departure gate even if your layover is particularly short.
The Best Airports for Long and Short Layovers
You might want to grab a quick coffee and muffin during a short layover or find a hotel and shower during a long one (defined as 12 hours or more). We’ve categorized airports that are most ideal for both short and long layovers.
The Top 5 U.S. Airports for Short Layovers Are:
- Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Aiport (SJC) — 42.4 out of 50
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) — 40.7 out of 50
- San Diego International Airport (SAN) — 40.1 out of 50
- Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) — 39.6 out of 50
- William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) — 39.3 out of 50
Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport claimed the top spot on our list with a score of 42.4 out of 50, closely followed by Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which secured the second position with a score of 40.7 out of 50. SEA has just 1 terminal — ensuring you won’t have to dash across the airport for a quick turnaround. Moreover, it boasts an 80% on-time departure rate and an 81% on-time arrival rate, ranking among our study’s best.
Despite its smaller size, MSY offers a remarkable 16 restaurants per mile. Dining choices at MSY range from cozy coffee shops to delightful bakeries, convenient hot dog stands, and even classic Creole cuisine. MSY also features impressive on-time performance statistics, with 78% of departures and 77% of arrivals adhering to schedule.
William P. Hobby Airport, with its 25 gates, facilitates smooth and swift turnarounds. It boasts an average delay duration of just 51 minutes for departures (ranking fourth lowest in the study) and an average delay duration of 58 minutes for arrivals (placing it in the top 10 lowest in the study) — minimizing disruptions to your travel schedule.
The Top 5 U.S. Airports for the Longest Layovers Are:
- San Diego International Airport (SAN) — 36.7 out of 50
- Logan International Airport (BOS) — 36.1 out of 50
- Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) — 35.9 out of 50
- Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) — 35.0 out of 50
- Miami International Airport (MIA) — 34.7 out of 50
San Diego International Airport is the best airport if you have a long layover. It has 51 gates, an average departure delay time of 63 minutes, and an average arrival delay time of 55 minutes.
Logan International Airport secured the second spot as the best airport for longest layovers, earning a score of 36.1 out of 50. The airport offers 3.2 lounges per mile, making it an ideal choice for frequent flyers enduring lengthy layovers and seeking a comfortable place to relax. The Hilton Boston Logan Airport Hotel connects to Boston Logan’s terminals via an enclosed sky bridge — making long layovers a breeze for weary travelers.
The Philadelphia International Airport secured the third position as the best U.S. airport for long layovers, scoring 35.9 out of 50. PHL boasts 50 nearby off-site restaurants, perfect for extended layovers when you want to venture outside the airport for a meal. PHL also offers 30 charging stations per mile, ensuring your devices stay powered up during your lengthy stay.
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and Miami International Airport secured the fourth and fifth positions, respectively, with scores of 35.0 and 34.7 out of 50. MIA stands out with 9.3 nearby hotels per 10,000 passengers and an on-site hotel for travelers needing overnight accommodations. Additionally, with a low canceled flight percentage of only 1.5%, your chances of experiencing flight disruptions are minimal.
The Average Delay Times at Major U.S. Airports
We’ve all been there — rushing to catch a connecting flight and missing out on what could have been a leisurely layover. To help you avoid such situations, we’ve compiled a list of airports with the longest and shortest arrival and departure wait times.
On average, departing flights experience a delay of approximately 67.7 minutes, while arriving flights face an average delay of about 66.5 minutes.
The top 5 airports with the longest departure wait times are:
- Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) — 82.6 minutes
- Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) — 79.9 minutes
- Miami International Airport (MIA) — 78.5 minutes
- Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) — 78 minutes
- Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) — 76.5 minutes
The top 5 airports with the longest arrival wait times are:
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) — 91.4 minutes
- Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) — 87.5 minutes
- Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) — 86.5 minutes
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) — 80.7 minutes
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) — 79.3 minutes
On the flip side, we also wanted to see which airports had the shortest wait times — ensuring you enjoy every second of your layover.
The top 5 airports with the shortest departure wait times are:
- Oakland International Airport (OAK) — 49.3 minutes
- Dallas Love Field (DAL) — 49.9 minutes
- Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) — 50.6 minutes
- William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) — 50.7 minutes
- Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) — 50.9 minutes
The top 5 airports with the shortest arrival wait times are:
- John Wayne Airport (SNA) — 50 minutes
- Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport (SJC) — 50.4 minutes
- Oakland International Airport (OAK) — 50.6 minutes
- Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) — 53.7 minutes
- San Diego International Airport (SAN) — 55.1 minutes
What Makes an Airport Great for Layovers?
Planning on flying soon? Maximize your airport layover experience by exploring our table above, which provides insights into airports that excel in short and long layovers and other key criteria such as security wait times, lounge availability, and more. Sort the columns to find the airport that aligns with your top layover priorities for a smoother travel experience.
To determine the airports that are the best and worst for a layover, we analyzed 50 of the busiest U.S. airports and ranked them from 1 to 50 based on factors crucial to travelers facing layovers during their journeys.
We gathered data on each airport, considering factors such as shopping options, on-time flight percentages, average delay durations, and off-airport amenities like nearby hotels and restaurants. Each factor received a score based on its performance relative to other airports in the study. These scores were weighted based on significance and then aggregated to form a final total score metric.
The score for short layovers encompassed aspects like average delays and the availability of restaurants within the airport. In contrast, the score for long layovers factored in considerations such as off-airport dining and hospitality options and metrics related to charging and connectivity, which become vital during extended stays at the airport. The complete list of ranking factors and their sources can be found below for reference:
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|Number of Restaurants per Mile||Individual Airport Websites||0.5|
|Number of Shopping Options per Mile||Individual Airport Websites||0.5|
|Number of Lounges per Mile||Individual Airport Websites||0.5|
|Number of Charging Stations per Mile||Individual Airport Websites||0.5|
|Number of Terminals||Individual Airport Websites||1.5|
|Number of Gates||Individual Airport Websites||1.5|
|Number of On-Site Hotels||Individual Airport Websites||1.5|
|Average Wi-Fi Download Speed (Mbps)||Ookla Speed Intelligence Test||1.5|
|Percent On-Time Departures||Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS)||1.5|
|Percent On-Time Arrivals||Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS)||1.5|
|Average Delay – Arrivals (Minutes)||Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS)||1.5|
|Average Delay – Departures (Minutes)||Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS)||1.5|
|Percent of Canceled Flights||Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS)||1.5|
|Nearby Hotels per 10K Passengers||Booking.com||1.75|
|Nearby Restaurants per 10K Passengers||Open Table||1.75|
|TSA Wait Times||TSA Wait Time||1|
When it comes to layovers, not all airports are created equal. Some, like San Diego International Airport, Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport, and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, are exceptionally well-suited for relaxed layovers, offering an abundance of restaurants, charging stations, and hotel options. With the holiday season rapidly approaching and the likelihood of layovers looming, use this guide when booking your flights to ensure the smoothest layover experience possible.
Here’s to happy layovers!
Featured Image Credit: Upgraded Points
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