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 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 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. And for help navigating airports as a passenger, check out 30 Airport Secrets Only Insiders Know.
LaGuardia Airport; New York, NY
“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% the worst. There is a reason us pilots refer to it as LaGarbage. That miserable, always delayed, overcrowded [dump] fills me with such hatred its unbelievable.” And for more horrible airports, don’t miss The 10 Worst U.S. Airports for Summer Travel.
Newark Liberty International Airport; Newark, NJ
Another NYC-area airport that came in for a drubbing from Redditor pilots. There’s the congested airspace that all airports in the area suffer from, but 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 if I don’t have to fly a route that’s going there if I don’t want to.” And for more ways to maximize your travel experience, see The 34 Best Airports in America.
Aspen-Pitkin County Airport; Aspen, CO
In a study conducted by Honeywell Aerospace last year, 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.
Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport; Bullhead City, AZ
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 pilot hatred of going there might have had something to do with it.
Orlando International Airport; Orlando, FL
The proportion of children on flights heading to this airport is perhaps higher for this airport 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 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.
Palm Beach International Airport; Palm Beach, FL
Perhaps worse than crying kids is 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.” And for more great air travel advice, learn about these Insane Amenities at the World’s Best Airport.
Georgetown Airport; Georgetown, CA
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:
- It’s on a mountain.
- One end of the runway ends on a cliff.
- The other ends 10 ft from some trees.
- The runway has an incline.
- The runway is narrow, bumpy, and a bit short.
- It’s in the middle of nowhere, and almost completely deserted.
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport; Arlington, VA
Coming in at number five on Honeywell’s list of most-despised airports, this one 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 slightly a pain.
Bert Mooney Airport; Butte, MT
Another airport stuck in the center of a mountainous region, this one has the added attraction of being absent a control tower and often experiencing below-freezing temperatures (not ideal for flying). It’s no wonder it took the number-three spot on Honeywell’s list of most-hated airports.
Juneau International Airport; Juneau, AK
Taking the number-six spot on Honeywell’s list, this airport terrain filled with mountains and glacier 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
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.
San Diego International Airport; San Diego, CA
The ninth most-hated airport by pilots, per Honeywell, pilots can always count on serious tailwinds as they approach, 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
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 5 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.”
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