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13 Worst Airports to Fly Into, According to Pilots

LaGuardia? More like "LaGarbage."

Airline pilots may seem like a happy bunch. But the truth is that underneath that crisp blue uniform and bright smile is often someone who hates much of his or her job. In addition to the grueling hours, decreasing wages, busy holidays, and the general monotony of having to sit in a cockpit for hours on end—according to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Environmental Health, depression is a major problem among commercial aviators—there's another thing that pilots really hate: certain worst airports.

Whether it's because of an always congested airspace, a too-short landing strip, or simply the fact that it's in the middle of nowhere, there are certain acronyms (hint: "LGA") that pilots simply dread. Read on to learn which ones they are—and remember to show some sympathy towards your captain the next time you're flying to Butte, Montana.

LaGuardia Airport; New York, NY

the exterior of laguardia airport viewed from the hangar

"Just a complete pain from 18,000 feet until you're at the gate," one pilot writes on Reddit. "Unfortunately, it doesn't stop there. The airport is packed. The food [is terrible] and it's insanely expensive. There's people everywhere. It's old."

He adds that departures are just as bad with constant delays and mixed messages from air traffic control from whom "you're cleared to push to spot 29, where you'll call ground 7 times unanswered, and then be number 37 for takeoff after convoluted taxi instructions."

Another pilot writes, "LaGaurdia is 100 percent the worst. There is a reason us pilots refer to it as LaGarbage. That miserable, always delayed, overcrowded [dump] fills me with such hatred it's unbelievable."

Orlando International Airport; Orlando, FL

orlando international airport

The proportion of children on flights heading to this airport is perhaps higher than any other in the country (or world, for that matter). As a pilot speaking to AOL Travel explained, "We've had kids on airplanes who are all excited about where they are going. They've got coloring books with the [Disney] characters, and the next thing you know they are drawing on the walls of the airplane. And the parents? They just let them do it."

You can also count on excited kids to do any number of other disruptive things—push the call button, play with the seats, and, perhaps most grating, start singing tunes from Frozen.

Aspen-Pitkin County Airport; Aspen, CO

aspen-pitkin county airport

In a 2017 study conducted by Honeywell Aerospace, drawing on data from its team of test pilots and the larger pilot community, this airport was named as the number-one worst airport to fly into. It's no wonder: The airport sits in a high mountain bowl that requires a series of rapid "step-downs" as soon as the pilot clears the mountain range, dropping around 2,400 feet in one minute. Passengers, prepare for your ears to pop!

Newark Liberty International Airport; Newark, NJ

newark airport

No surprise: There's another New York City-area airport that came in for a drubbing from Reddit pilots. Besides the congested airspace that all airports in the area suffer from, one pilot explained to AOL Travel that Newark stands out as "the worst."

"Newark was never meant for the volume of traffic that comes and goes there," he says. "No airport was really meant for that. So I avoid it like the plague. I'm pretty senior with my airline, so I don't have to fly a route that's going there if I don't want to."

Palm Beach International Airport; Palm Beach, FL

Palm beach airport

Perhaps worse than crying kids are entitled rich people, and pilots get plenty of those in this destination for the wealthy. That's been the experience of the pilot who spoke to AOL Travel, "They are unbelievably demanding. They'll ask for a soda from a flight attendant then put it in their bag and immediately demand another one. They'll walk off the plane with six or seven drinks and a pile of snacks in their bag. And if you're delayed, you can be sure you'll hear some smart comments."

Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport; Bullhead City, AZ

bullhead city arizona worst airport

This Arizona airport has mountains on three sides and a mere 8,500-foot runway, requiring a rapid descent and tricky landings even in the best conditions. It landed in the second spot on Honeywell's list. American Airlines pilots likely breathed a sigh of relief last fall when the airline decided to discontinue flights there—ostensibly due to low demand, though we'd bet pilot hatred might have had something to do with it.

Georgetown Airport; Georgetown, CA

georgetown airport

This small airport located in Northern California is about as precarious you can get. One pilot, writing on Reddit, laid out his reasons for avoiding it:

  1. It's on a mountain.
  2. One end of the runway ends on a cliff.
  3. The other ends 10 feet from some trees.
  4. The runway has an incline.
  5. The runway is narrow, bumpy, and a bit short.
  6. It's in the middle of nowhere, and almost completely deserted.

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport; Arlington, VA

reagan national airport

This despised airport is a major pain in large part because it's the most heavily guarded airspace in the world, seriously restricting pilots' options (unless they want to have a fighter jet roll up next to them). Plus, there are those sharp turns along the Potomac River, making landing a serious pain.

Bert Mooney Airport; Butte, MT

plane flying

Another airport stuck in the center of a mountainous region, the rinky-dink Bert Mooney has the added attraction of being absent a control tower and often experiencing below-freezing temperatures (obviously not ideal for flying). It's no wonder it was high on Honeywell's list of most-hated airports.

Juneau International Airport; Juneau, AK

Juneau international airport

This airport terrain is filled with mountains and glaciers that planes have to dodge along with intense turbulence due to its location next to the often very cold Gastineau Channel. It was so unnerving to fly into that researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the Federal Aviation Administration, and Alaska Airlines worked together to develop an electronic monitoring system to track when there is a quick shift in wind speed and direction.

Norfolk International Airport; Norfolk, VA

plane boarding passengers at norfolk international airport

Pilots on Reddit complain about the rough runway ("like landing on a dirt road") and say that, as smooth as your touchdown may be here, "you're going to feel like you slammed it on." To make things worse, one writer points out that the crosswinds here are intense, due to the airport's water-adjacent location. Hold on tight, folks, it's going to be a bumpy landing!

San Diego International Airport; San Diego, CA

San Diego airport

According to Honeywell, pilots can always count on serious tailwinds as they approach San Diego International Airport, and terrain issues as they land. As a retired airline captain explained to USA Today, "There is no electronic glide slope (vertical guidance) provided."

Toronto Pearson International Airport; Toronto, Canada

toronto pearson airport

This massive airport can be a pain for plenty of passengers trying to catch a connecting flight, but for pilots, the wind there is what's most frustrating.

"The second it gets windy or they get a [millimeter] of snow, the whole place goes [haywire]," one pilot wrote on Reddit. "Cancellations and delays everywhere. Two days ago, 200 flights cancelled for a bit of wind. Last week we landed five hours late because of some snow. When we landed, I counted at least 20 planes sitting around waiting for gates, apparently some had been waiting for two-plus hours."

On the bright side, there are some incredible airports and destinations you can now reach thanks to these 20 Exciting New Flight Routes Coming in 2020.

Alex Daniel
A journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. Read more
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