These Are the 15 Best Airports in North America

·6 min read
Photo:  Leonardo Munoz/VIEWpress (Getty Images)
Photo: Leonardo Munoz/VIEWpress (Getty Images)

North America has some of the world’s most recognizable and busiest airports. A few facilities are so well-known that the average person can instantly identify them by their three-letter airport code, like LAX for Los Angeles International Airport or JFK for New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. According to data from Airports Council International, the top ten of the world’s busiest airports by aircraft movements were all in North America.

While North America’s airports see the most traffic, they aren’t known for being the best in the world. Last month, a power outage at JFK forced a transpacific flight to return to New Zealand. Austin-Bergstrom and Orlando both had to deal with low supplies of jet fuel over the past year. Last September, there was an over-two-hour wait to get through security at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Not to mention, the FAA computer outage in January that caused a complete ground stop across the United States.

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Here are the top 15 airports in North America, along with their place in the world standings, as ranked by Skytrax in 2023.

15. (92.) Calgary International Airport

Photo:  wwing (Getty Images)
Photo: wwing (Getty Images)

The list of the continent’s best airports starts in Canada with Calgary International Airport, which serves Alberta’s largest city. Skytrax praised the airport’s internal shuttle system for efficiently moving passengers between domestic and international terminals. However, not every passenger at YYC gets this experience. According to Yahoo News Canada, a WestJet passenger was mistakenly locked an airport hallway for hours.

14. (88.) John F. Kennedy International Airport

Photo:  Skyhobo (Getty Images)
Photo: Skyhobo (Getty Images)

John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City’s busiest airport, is only the Big Apple’s second-best airport. Skytrax criticized JFK for its inconsistency between independently designed and built terminals, but the aviation ratings organization has high expectations for Kennedy’s future Terminal 1. I just hope that passengers won’t have to deal with delays or cancellations because of a terminal power outage.

13. (71.) Denver International Airport

Photo:  IMNATURE (Getty Images)
Photo: IMNATURE (Getty Images)

Denver International Airport, the largest airport in the Western Hemisphere by land area, is known for its distinctive roof. Skytrax complimented the airport’s commuter rail connection to downtown Denver and applauded the facility for its artwork and sculptures. However, the Colorado airport was noted for having slow times through security. It looks like the airport’s CEO had a harder time getting through the Senate to become the FAA Administrator.

12. (66.) Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

Photo:  Angus Mordant/Bloomberg (Getty Images)
Photo: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg (Getty Images)

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is an important hub for American Airlines and the second-busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic. Skytrax praised DFW’s unique terminal layout, which reduces excessive walking distances. According to the Dallas Morning News, passengers will soon be able to pay to eliminate walking altogether. The airport is going to offer a home-to-plane chauffeur service.

11. (64.) Toronto Pearson International Airport

Photo:  Cole Burston/Bloomberg (Getty Images)
Photo: Cole Burston/Bloomberg (Getty Images)

Toronto Pearson International Airport is Canada’s largest and busiest airport and a hub for flag carrier Air Canada. Skytrax knocks Toronto Pearson for long walking distances. YYZ is infamous for delays and cancellations. The problem is so out of hand that the airport has now put a hard limit on flights during Canada’s traditional travel seasons. According to the CBC, the airport cited a lack of security screening staff, ongoing federal COVID-19 restrictions and limitations on aircraft movements.

10. (63.) Los Angeles International Airport

Photo:  kevinjeon00 (Getty Images)
Photo: kevinjeon00 (Getty Images)

Los Angeles International Airport is the busiest airport on the West Coast. For its Southern California location, LAX unsurprisingly has lousy traffic. Skytrax notes that access to the airport is a weakness, and drop-off roadways often have heavy traffic. Though, the critique raises questions as to why people would jump out of an airplane before takeoff. Yes, people. It has happened more than once.

9. (62.) Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Photo:  logopop / Wikimedia Commons
Photo: logopop / Wikimedia Commons

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the world’s busiest airport and the main hub for Delta Air Lines. While the airport certainly has quantity covered, quality is an issue. Skytrax notes “inefficient and insufficient immigration and security staffing levels.” The level of security at TSA checkpoints that would, for example, let a gun slip through on a flight to Tokyo, Japan.

8. (57.) New York-LaGuardia Airport

Photo:  The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Photo: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

LaGuardia Airport has massively improved in recent years to become the best airport in the New York City metropolitan area, surpassing Newark and JFK. The airport is part way through a massive reconstruction effort. The new LaGuardia has earned a Best New Airport Award from UNESCO and public praise for its modern… bathrooms.

7. (48.) San Francisco International Airport

Photo:  JasonDoiy (Getty Images)
Photo: JasonDoiy (Getty Images)

Improvements at other airports haven’t been as well-received as LaGuardia’s renovation. San Francisco International Airport’s Terminal 1 is undergoing a $2.4 billion modernization. Despite the new Harvey Milk Terminal, Skytrax slated the airport for poor staffing at immigration, customs and security.

6. (46.) Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport

Photo:  EEJCC / Wikimedia Commons
Photo: EEJCC / Wikimedia Commons

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport might be more well known for being a hub for cargo airlines like Amazon Air and DHL. However, the Kentucky airport is rated as one of America’s best passenger airports and is looking to improve even further. According to WCPO, the airport has received $14 million from the FAA for renovations.

5. (45.) Montréal-Trudeau International Airport

Photo:  Daniel Slim / AFP (Getty Images)
Photo: Daniel Slim / AFP (Getty Images)

According to Skytrax, Montréal-Trudeau International Airport is the second-best airport in Canada. The aviation ratings organization noted the positive changes made by the facility to improve transfers and security processing. However, the airport isn’t directly connected to downtown Montréal and relies on frequent bus service. Also, Trudeau Airport is apparently dealing with fake taxis extorting customers.

4. (35.) George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston

Photo:  Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)
Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Texas’ second-busiest airport, was complemented by Skytrax for its services and facilities maintained and upgraded in cooperation with United Airlines, the airport’s hub carrier. Despite the praise, Bush isn’t Houston’s highest-ranked airport.

3. (32.) Houston Hobby Airport

Photo:  WhisperToMe / Wikimedia Commons
Photo: WhisperToMe / Wikimedia Commons

Houston Hobby Airport, the older airport in the city, ranks highly for doing the basics exceptionally well. According to Skytrax, Hobby is efficient security and immigration processing, short walking distances, charging outlets, free WiFi, and modern décor. The amenities for families, like a new children’s play area and nursery facilities, are also good.

2. (20.) Vancouver International Airport

Photo:  stockstudioX (Getty Images)
Photo: stockstudioX (Getty Images)

Vancouver International Airport is the highest-ranked airport in Canada. Skytrax mentions that YVR offers passengers an excellent experience while also being aesthetically pleasing. Though, it was recommended that the airport try to reduce security wait times The only thing that Vancouver can’t get rid of are the flight-canceling snowstorms.

1. (18.) Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Photo:  David Ryder/Bloomberg (Getty Images)
Photo: David Ryder/Bloomberg (Getty Images)

According to Skytrax, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is the best airport in North America. The airport is the first in the United States to offer a bags-first customs experience, where passengers claim their bags before going through U.S. customs. The process shortens the minimum international flight transfer time at Sea-Tac by 15 minutes, from a 90-minute connection to 75 minutes. However, getting through security for a departure can be a headache, like when it took over two hours last September.

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