Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
U.S. Airports With the Most Fast Food Chains [2024 Data Study]
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Are you someone who relishes a quick bite before your flight? Or perhaps you find comfort in familiar fast food options during layovers? Well, you’re not alone. Airports worldwide cater to this need, but some airports are veritable fast food havens, while others offer far fewer choices. Learn more below about which airports are abundant with fast-food restaurants to choose from and which are lacking in the flavor department.
Whether you need a quick grab-and-go meal or a familiar taste during your travels, fast food at airports can be a real lifesaver. Here, we’ll reveal the airports that are abundant with fast-food restaurants and which are lacking in the flavor department. We’ll also examine the fast-food chains that dominate the U.S. airport landscape. From the ubiquitous presence of golden arches to surprising finds at various hubs, we’ve got you covered.
Ranking Airports on Access to Fast Food
To allow for more accurate comparisons across airports of varying sizes, we measured the ratio of fast food options to passenger traffic at every airport in our study. We positioned the total number of fast-food restaurants in each airport against their passenger numbers. To put these numbers in perspective, we found the total possible number of passengers who could visit each fast-food restaurant in each airport based on estimated daily traffic.
Leading the pack is Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), boasting an impressive ratio of 6,900 daily passengers for every fast food chain. This is a staggering 73% below the airport average. What does this mean for you? Essentially, shorter lines and more time to enjoy your meal. The Cincinnati airport features popular choices like Subway, Chick-fil-A, and Wendy’s, ensuring you have variety at your fingertips.
Not far behind is Houston’s very own George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH). With a daily passenger per fast food chain ratio of 7,400 (71% below the average), this airport is a fast food enthusiast’s paradise. It houses 15 fast food restaurants, including a remarkable 5 Panda Expresses and 3 Wendy’s. So, whether you crave some quick Asian cuisine or a classic burger, IAH has you covered.
Next, Ontario International Airport (ONT) stands at 7,800 daily passengers per fast food chain. This figure is 69% below the average, making it another top contender for fast food availability. Whether you’re a fan of Subway’s sandwiches or Chick-fil-A’s chicken delights, ONT ensures you won’t have to wander far for your favorite fast food.
Another airport serving Ohio residents, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE), also makes the list with 7,900 daily passengers per fast food chain, which is 69% below the average. With 2 Subways and a Chick-fil-A, your cravings for a quick and tasty meal can be easily satisfied here.
Coming in at the fifth spot is Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), with a ratio of 9,700 daily passengers per fast food chain, 62% below the average. With 6 fast food restaurants, including 2 Subways, 2 Chick-fil-As, and a Pizza Hut, your options are diverse and convenient.
If you’re a heavy packer who’s worried about lugging baggage from your gate to the nearest fast food joint, San Diego International Airport (SAN) is the most convenient, with the most fast food chains per mile (3.09). If you’re a picky eater looking for the most options, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) has 19, the most fast-food locations of any airport in the study.
For those curious about how other airports stack up, don’t miss our comprehensive data table below. Find your local airport and see how it compares in terms of fast food access, number of fast food locations, and density of locations. Whether you’re a frequent flyer or an occasional traveler, this information might make your next airport experience a little more enjoyable (and delicious!).
The Fast Food Chains You’ll Find Most Often in U.S. Airports
Whether you need a quick breakfast before an early flight or a snack during a layover, these familiar fast-food outlets provide comfort and convenience to millions of travelers. Let’s look at the most prevalent fast-food chains gracing the terminals of U.S. airports.
Given that McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A are in the top 5 highest-grossing fast-food restaurants, it should come as no surprise that both top the list of fast-food locations at America’s major airports. Both chains have 35 locations across the 60 busiest airports in the U.S.
Subway and Burger King also make fairly large impressions when it comes to airline travel. Both restaurants have 24 locations in the airports we studied. Wendy’s also makes an appearance high on the list with an even 20 locations.
Perhaps the most surprising fast-food find at the airport is how often we see Panda Express. The Chinese cuisine-inspired quick-service restaurant has 22 locations in major U.S. airports, giving it the fifth spot on our list. Panda Express only has about 2,400 locations nationwide, significantly less than the other popular airport fast-food chains that fared similarly in our study. So while you may have trouble finding a location near you, you certainly won’t when needing a quick bite during your next flight.
Market Share Across U.S. Airports
Are you interested in seeing how your favorite fast-food joint stacks up? Check out the table below to find out which fast-food chains dominate airports across the country.
Topping the list is Chick-fil-A, appearing in nearly 42% of the airports we studied. Known for its chicken sandwiches and waffle fries, Chick-fil-A is a go-to option for many travelers seeking a quick and tasty meal. Plus, its lightning-fast customer service is a bonus for travelers who need to fill up before departure.
Coming in second is Burger King, with locations in 30% of airports. With its wide range of burgers, fries, and breakfast options, Burger King offers a satisfying meal to those on the move who prefer to have it their way.
Not far behind, Wendy’s makes its presence known in 28.3% of airports. Wendy’s is well-loved for its square burgers, fresh salads, and, of course, the iconic Frosty.
McDonald’s, synonymous with fast food worldwide, is found in 26.67% of airports. With its Big Macs, Happy Meals, and McCafé coffee, McDonald’s provides a sense of home no matter where you are (and no matter where home is).
Subway, also at 26.7%, offers a healthier alternative with its numerous customizable sandwiches and salads. It’s perfect for those looking for a quick, tailor-made meal.
Finally, Panda Express, found in 25% of airports, brings a taste of Asian cuisine to the travel experience. With its famous Orange Chicken and various stir-fry dishes, Panda Express provides a delicious twist to your airport dining options.
To determine the U.S. airports with the most fast food chains, we analyzed the dining options of the 60 busiest U.S. airports (in terms of total passengers). We counted how many of the 20 most popular fast-food chains (based on the number of locations) were in each airport. From there, we positioned that against annual passenger traffic from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The number of each chain was pulled from individual airport websites, and the starting list of fast food chains was pulled from QSR Magazine.
Quick-service restaurants are more than just a convenience — they’re an essential piece of the travel experience for many. From the dominance of Chick-fil-A in a staggering number of airports to the widespread availability of global giants like McDonald’s and Subway, these chains ensure that travelers are never too far from a taste of home.
So next time you find yourself in an airport, remember that a comforting and quick meal could be just a few steps away. And don’t forget to check out our comprehensive tables for a detailed look at fast food options in airports nationwide.
Safe travels and happy dining!
Featured Image Credit: Upgraded Points
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