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Which Are the Most Stressful Airports in the U.S.?

Chicago O'Hare is the nation's most stressful airport in the nation, according to a new report

by Fergus Cole

June 6, 2024

Photo: Courtesy of Yolanda Suen on Unsplash

Large crowds, long lines, and flight delays can often turn the excitement of travel into a stressful nightmare before your trip has even begun, although some airports are certainly worse than others. And now, a recent report has revealed which airports in the U.S. may be best avoided if you’re after a hassle-free experience.

A report by StressFreeCarRental.com analyzed the nation’s 15 most popular airports to determine which are the most stressful to travel through, taking into account five key factors likely to cause stress to travelers: the total number of passengers, distance from the city center, the number of flight destinations offered, car parking fees, and the overall passenger satisfaction score.

“A stressful experience at the airport could make or break your vacation, so we’ve crunched the data to find which destinations travelers should steer clear of if they want a peaceful airport experience,” said John Charnock, CEO of StressFreeCarRental.com.

So, let’s take a look at which U.S. airports are the most stressful, according to the 2024 Stressful Airport Index:

15: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)

The least stressful major airport in the U.S., according to the 2024 report, is Phoenix Sky Harbor International, with a total stress score of 16.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport / Photo: Paul Cuoco / Unsplash

The Arizona hub welcomed 21.8 million passengers in 2023, putting it at the lower end of the scale in terms of passenger volume, while its overall satisfaction score of 83% on FlightRadar24 is just one percentage point lower than the highest of any airport in the index.

PHX is conveniently located just 3.7km from downtown Phoenix, considerably closer than any other airport in the survey, while its average weekly car parking cost of just $72 was the third cheapest on the list.

14: San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

Slightly more stressful than PHX is San Francisco International, which saw 20.4 million passengers last year and serves 142 destinations. SFO is located 13.9km from the city center, significantly further than PHX, which is to the center of Phoenix but by no means the furthest on the list.

Photo: Courtesy of San Francisco International Airport.

Its average weekly car parking fee is also considerably higher at $175. However, its overall satisfaction score of 84% is the joint highest, helping it be named the second least stressful major airport in the U.S. with a stress score of 24.

13: George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

Next up is Houston George Bush Intercontinental, with a total stress score of 32. The Texan airport serves 184 destinations but saw just 19.8 million passengers last year – the lowest of any airport in the index.

Its average car parking cost is also the lowest on the list at just $51.20 a week, although it’s located quite far from downtown Houston at 21.6km.

12: Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)

With a total stress score of 33, Charlotte Douglas International is the 12th most stressful airport in the country. CLT served 187 destinations and welcomed 23.1 million passengers last year, while its average weekly parking fee is at the lower end of the scale at $93.99.

It’s also just 7.3km from the center of Charlotte, the third closest of any airport in the rankings.

11: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

Seattle-Tacoma International, home to Alaska Airlines, served 22.1 million passengers last year but offered flights to just 127 destinations – the lowest of any airport on the list.

Photo: Courtesy of The Port of Seattle

It’s located a fairly manageable 12.1km from the center of Seattle, although it costs an average of $376 a week to park there – more than any other airport. Despite this, its overall satisfaction score on FlightRadar24 is a respectable 82%, and it received a total stress score of 35.

10: Harry Reid International Airport (LAS)

Among the top ten most stressful airports, Harry Reid International in Las Vegas received a total score of 36. The gateway to Sin City welcomed 25.3 million passengers last year, serving 164 destinations.

Its distance to the center of Las Vegas, at just 7km, is the second lowest on the list, although it’s expensive to park there, costing an average of $252 for a week – the third highest of the index.

9: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

With a whopping 45.4 million passengers in 2023, Atlanta has the busiest airport in the world, let alone in the U.S. But despite these overwhelming passenger numbers, the Delta Air Lines hub managed to scrape into the bottom half of the country’s 15 most stressful airports, achieving a total stress score of 39.

Photo: Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport. Courtesy of Skyler Smith / Unsplash

It’s located fairly close to downtown at 10.87km, car parking is somewhat affordable at $133 for a week on average, and its FlightRadar24 satisfaction score of 84% is the joint highest.

8: Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

With a stress score 42, Newark Liberty International fell bang in the middle of the rankings. Newark, which serves the New Jersey and New York City metropolitan areas, saw 21.5 million passengers last year and serves 184 destinations.

Photo: Courtesy of Newark Airport

Its distance to the city center – 13.39km – is slightly below average, but its weekly parking costs of £200 are above average. However, its FlightRadar24 satisfaction score was the lowest airport, at just 71%.

7: Orlando International Airport (MCO)

Orlando International is the seventh most stressful airport in the U.S., with a total score of 43. MCO saw 24.4 million passengers in 2023 and serves 172 different destinations.

Its distance to the center of Orlando is average, at 14.47km, although its parking fees of $256 per week are expensive. However, its passenger satisfaction score of 82% is highly respectable.

6: Miami International Airport (MIA)

Another Florida airport is next, with Miami International scoring 44. MIA served slightly fewer passengers than Orlando last year, at 23.7 million, but offers flights to more destinations, at 192.

Photo: Courtesy of Miami International Airport

It is closer to the city center than MCO is, at just 11.7km, while it’s also cheaper to park there for a week, at an average of $175. However, its passenger satisfaction score isn’t too great at just 78%.

5: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

With a total score of 47, Los Angeles International is the nation’s fifth most stressful airport. LAX served 32.3 million passengers last year with flights to 189 destinations, and its car parking is surprisingly affordable, at just $119.99 for a week, on average.

However, it’s pretty far from the center of LA at 21.42km, and its customer satisfaction score of 77% suggests it can do much more to improve the passenger experience.

4: Denver International Airport (DEN)

Coming in as the fourth most stressful airport in the U.S. with a score of 48 is Denver International. The major Colorado airport served 33.7 million passengers in 2023 – the third highest in the country – offering flights to 219 destinations – also the third highest.

Photo: Courtesy of Denver International Airport.

It also has the joint highest customer satisfaction score on FlightRadar24, at 84%, while its average weekly parking cost of $54 makes it the second cheapest on the list.

However, with a distance of 24.99 to downtown Denver, it’s the furthest away from the city center of any airport in the survey.

3: Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

The third most stressful airport in the U.S. is Dallas/Fort Worth International, with a total score of 51. DFW had the joint-highest customer satisfaction score at 84% and very affordable parking at just $75 per week.

Photo: American Airlines gates. Courtesy of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

However, the American Airlines hub serves 258 destinations – more places than any other major U.S. airport – and 35.3 million passengers passed through its gates last year – second only to ATL.

It’s also the second furthest from the city center than any airport on the list, at 22.36km. This long journey and large crowds helped push DFW high up the list despite scoring well on other metrics.

2: John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

With a total stress score of 53, New York JFK is the second most stressful airport in the country. Travelers can expect high numbers of passengers, with 26.9 million passing through its gates last year and flights going to 193 destinations.

It’s pretty far from the center of New York City, at 20.43km, while car parking is expensive, too, at $191.67 on average for the week. It’s also got a fairly disappointing FlightRadar24 satisfaction score of 77%.

1: Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

The most stressful airport in the U.S. in 2024 is Chicago O’Hare International, according to StressFreeCarRental.com. The United Airlines hub scored pretty poorly on each metric. It offers flights to 249 destinations – the second highest on the list – and served 33.1 million passengers last year, so large crowds and long lines are expected.

Photo: Chicago O’Hare. Courtesy Ben Wicks on Unsplash

It’s also far from the city center – 19.1km away – and has the nation’s second most expensive car parking fees, averaging $283.21 a week.

Its FlightRadar24 satisfaction score is below average at 78%, and it received a total stress score of 62 – almost 10 points higher than JFK.