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San Francisco Named Best Large Airport in the U.S.

The Wall Street Journal has named San Francisco International as the best large airport in the country, with Newark Liberty being the worst

by Fergus Cole

November 23, 2022

Photo: Courtesy of Duke Cullinan / Unsplash

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has been named the best large airport in the United States by the Wall Street Journal. In the newspaper’s ‘Best and Worst Airports of 2022’ report, SFO came out on top of the rankings for large airports with an overall score of 61, with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) close behind in second with a score of 59.

A total of twenty large airports were included in the report, with a separate ranking of the thirty ‘Best Midsize U.S. Airports’ alongside it. Californian airports also came out on top there, with Sacramento (SMF), San Diego (SAN), and San Jose (SJC) all taking the top three spots, respectively.

But while Californian airports performed well across the board—LAX was ranked the 6th best large airport, while Santa Ana (SNA) and Oakland (OAK) were both in the top 10 midsize airports—the same can’t be said for airports on the East Coast.

Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) was ranked as the worst large airport in the U.S., with an overall score of just 19, while New York-JFK was named the second worst, achieving a marginally better score of 24. New York residents can also claim to have the country’s worst midsize airport, with New York LaGuardia (LGA) coming to the top of those rankings.

According to the Wall Street Journal, airports were ranked based on 19 factors, divided into three categories: reliability, value, and convenience. The factors considered for reliability were the percentage of on-time arrivals, average arrival delays, percentage of departures on time, average departure delays, percentage of flights canceled, average taxi-out time, average taxi-in time, and fast security clearance.

Photo: Courtesy of Michael Discenza / Unsplash

San Francisco International Airport had the highest rate of on-time departures at 84%, while it also had the quickest taxi-in time at just 6 minutes. Unsurprisingly, however, the airport scored less well regarding the value, based on average domestic fares, airline market share, on-site parking costs, car rental costs, UberX to the city center costs, and the cost of a bottle of water. The only factor that SFO ranked in the top 10 for was the cost of an UberX to the city center, which at $36—the 9th cheapest out of the 20 largest airports.

For the final category—convenience—SFO once again performed better. It had the best average Yelp restaurant rating at 2.82, the second-best customer satisfaction score, and the fourth shortest maximum walking distance at 2,030ft. However, it was let down slightly by its number of nonstop destinations, which at 114, was the lowest of the 20 largest airports.

SFO is a major airport on the West Coast, serving as a hub for both United Airlines and Alaska Airlines. At the same time, it’s also the most important U.S. destination for international carriers like Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific. However, the fact it flies to fewer destinations than LAX and Seattle-Tacoma means it’s less busy and easier to navigate, which likely helped it to gain the title of the ‘best large airport in the U.S.’

“Our entire team has worked hard to create a world-class airport experience for our guests, and this achievement is the ultimate validation of our efforts,” said Ivar C. Satero, airport director at SFO. “During a year of turbulent air travel, we are proud to know that SFO offered our valued travelers the most consistent, reliable experience.”

The full ranking for the 20 largest U.S. airports, according to the Wall Street Journal, is as follows:

  1. San Francisco (SFO)
  2. Atlanta (ATL)
  3. Minneapolis (MSP)
  4. Detroit (DTW)
  5. Phoenix (PHX)
  6. Los Angeles (LAX)
  7. Houston (IAH)
  8. Las Vegas (LAS)
  9. Charlotte (CLT)
  10. Seattle (SEA)
  11. Denver (DEN)
  12. Boston (BOS)
  13. Philadelphia (PHL)
  14. Chicago (ORD)
  15. Orlando (MCO)
  16. Miami (MIA)
  17. Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)
  18. Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
  19. New York (JFK)
  20. Newark (EWR)