Our airports don’t measure up
Which brings us to the collectively crappy condition of most US airports. As Americans, we’ve just come to accept that airports are loud, crowded, stress-inducing places where the general highlight is paying $2 extra for a double. Sure, we’ve added some better food options, and, if you’re in San Francisco, a yoga room, but on a global scale our airports are pretty miserable places.
“Overseas airports are quiet and relaxing,” says Patrick Smith, a commercial pilot and the author of Cockpit Confidential and askthepilot.com. “In Asia, the airports are incredibly efficient. Everything is streamlined, it’s amazing and it just drives you crazy why we can’t figure that out. Ours are just nightmarish.”
Seoul's airport has a golf course. Singapore has got a butterfly and sunflower garden. At sunny LAX, your only outdoor option is a smoking area.
Many overseas airports have “sleeping pods,” where stranded passengers can catch some Zs in a microroom without having to leave the terminal. In America we have MicroSuites... in THREE airports. So unless you're flying through Atlanta, Philly, or DFW, your only in-terminal option is the chateau de floor.
You get the point. While a lot of countries have created an enjoyable, efficient airport experience, we’ve added a couple of Wolfgang Pucks and said, “Eh, that’ll do.” That's why when Skytrax asked nearly 13 million passengers to rank the world's airports for its annual survey, not a single US airport was in the top 25. Not one.
In fact, when Skytrax developed an airport star-rating system similar to those used for hotels, no US airport received a top, five-star rating. The only two that got four stars were San Francisco and Cincinnati, and when your country's hub of innovation is Southern Ohio/Northern Kentucky, maybe it’s time to make some changes. Even if Cincy does have such a gorgeous skyline.
You see, most major US airports were built early in the commercial aviation game. And while they were located in places with plenty of land for expansion, the growing city around them eventually snatched up all that property. Now many (cough::LAX::cough) are stuck serving millions more passengers than they were designed for and are in desperate need of improvement. Some even need to be razed and replaced. Looking at you LGA.
And don't even get us started on our air traffic control system. That's only 40 years out of date.