Travel

The 10 Worst (and Best!) US Airports for TSA Security Delays

Published On 11/02/2016 Published On 11/02/2016
Miami International Airport
Miami International Airport | View Apart / Shutterstock.com

Your grandparents can wax nostalgic about the supposed "golden age of flying" all they want. Wow, you got full meals and friendly flight attendants? Kudos. Where are your scars from the golden age of TSA security delays? THAT'S something to brag to your grandkids about.
 
If you flew in the past year or so, you might've gotten to see a magical era of aviation, where two hours on a TSA line wasn't even unusual. (We'll see your so-called Greatest Generation and raise you a Latest Generation.) Security wait times crept up steadily since 2006, then doubled at many airports earlier in 2016. What a time to be alive! And some of us have been lucky enough to experience these great delays far more than others.
 
Time.com got some interesting data from the folks at TSA, showing the airports with the most frequent passenger security delays from 2006-2015, defined as waiting in line longer than 20 minutes. What’s most surprising is the usual suspects not topping the list of slowest airports. Only five of the 25 slowest were airports with more than 10 million passengers in 2015, and a lot of heavy hitters were nowhere to be seen. While the absolute slowest were in some of the more far-flung airports in the nation.

Behold, the 10 worst airports in America for procrastinators:

10 . Austin-Bergstrom International, Texas

6.67 delays per 100,000 passengers, 5.8 million passengers in 2015 

9. Lambert-St. Louis International, Missouri

7.36 delays per 100,000 passengers, 6.2 million passengers

8. Long Island MacArthur, New York

7.6 delays per 100,000 passengers, 630,600 passengers in 2015

7. Burlington International, Vermont

7.77 delays per 100,000 passengers, 581,100 passengers in 2015

6. Buffalo Niagara International, New York

8.53 delays per 100,000 passengers, 2.3 million passengers in 2015

5. Miami International, Florida

8.9 delays per 100,000 passengers, 21 million passengers in 2015

4. Southwest Florida International, Fort Myers, Florida

9.55 delays per 100,000 passengers, 4.2 million passengers in 2015

3. LaGuardia, New York

10.26 delays per 100,000 passengers, 14.3 million passengers in 2015 

2. Ted Stevens Anchorage International, Alaska

10.94 delays per 100,000 passengers, 2.5 million passengers in 2015

1. Kona International at Keahole, Hawaii

17.58 delays per 100,000 passengers, 1.5 million passengers in 2015

We've called the TSA to find out why little Kona was the runaway winner. Other notables on the list were Philadelphia at No. 13, Newark at No. 15, Seattle-Tacoma at No. 20, and Bill and Hillary Clinton National in Little Rock at No. 17. And they can't even blame that on $200 haircuts.

Portland International Airport | David Gaylor/Shutterstock

But it wasn't all bad news! The analysis also found some airports that move at a decent pace. Though eight of the 25 fastest handled fewer than a million passengers in 2015, some big cities made the list. Detroit was the 15th-fastest, with only .75 delays per 100,000 passengers, and SFO was 19th-fastest, with only .94 delays and a whopping 24.2 million passengers.

Here are the 10 most expedient:

10. The Eastern Iowa Airport, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

.55 delays per 100,000 passengers, 557,400 passengers in 2015

9. Portland International, Oregon

.51 delays per 100,000 passengers, 8.3 million passengers in 2015

8. Palm Beach International, Florida

.42 delays per 100,000 passengers, 3.1 million passengers in 2015

7. Boise Air Terminal/Gowen Field, Idaho

.4 delays per 100,000 passengers, 1.5 million passengers in 2015

6. Harrisburg International, Pennsylvania

.39 delays per 100,000 passengers, 587,000 passengers in 2015 

5. Northwest Arkansas Regional, Bentonville, Arkansas

.36 delays per 100,000 passengers, 629,900 passengers in 2015

4. Blue Grass, Lexington, Kentucky

.35 delays per 100,000 passengers, 607,000 passengers in 2015

3. Hilo International, Hawaii

.31 delays per 100,000 passengers, 627,200 passengers in 2015

2. Albuquerque International Sunport, New Mexico

.31 delays per 100,000 passengers, 2.3 million passengers in 2015

1. Piedmont Triad International, Greensboro, North Carolina

.25 delays per 100,000 passengers, 848,200 passengers in 2015
 
Interestingly absent from the lists were notorious hotbeds of TSA ineptitude like LAX (4.46), JFK (3.81), DFW (2.26), Atlanta (1.37), and O'Hare (3.92). Meaning that perhaps the only time this winter you'd rather be in Chicago than Hawaii is when waiting on an airport security line. That said, with more people signing up for TSA PreCheck, and TSA graduating nearly 200 officers per week this spring, wait times finally seem to be slowing down. So while the golden age of airport security delays might be coming to an end, there are still a handful of airports where it's still going strong.

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Matt Meltzer is a staff writer with Thrillist. Follow him on Instagram @meltrez1.

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