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11 Worst U.S. Airports for Layovers

Although the Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that the number of domestic flights arriving on time is higher than it's been in decades, every globe-trotter experiences a delay now and then while commuting from point A to B. And if you frequently fly through major hubs, where airline punctuality lags behind the rest of the country, chances are you've been stalled on more than one occasion.

To help keep your travel plans on track, U.S. News Travel has compiled a list of the country's worst stopover points. Our methodology factors in two key components: timeliness and passenger opinion as expressed on SkyTrax, a website devoted to air travel reviews. We've also added some helpful tips to make your layover more bearable.

What are your tips for dealing with layovers? Tweet your recommendations to @USNewsTravel.

[In Pictures: 11 Worst U.S. Airports for Layovers]

11. Baltimore/ Washington International Airport (BWI)

Baltimore

Baltimore/Washington International Airport has made great strides in 2012, increasing its on-time departure performance by approximately 10 percent compared to the first six months of 2011. Furthermore, BWI performs better than other D.C.-based airports, like Dulles, which appears further down our list. Still, BWI falls short compared to many other airports throughout the nation, with over 15 percent of its flights delayed.

The layover lowdown:

You won't have access to cutting-edge retailers and restaurants here, but both the upper and lower terminals feature numerous cafés and newsstands. Additionally, recent travelers speculate that terminals have been less crowded due to the weakened economy.  

10. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

Atlanta

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Approximately 90 million passengers pass through this hub every year, making it one of the busiest airports on the planet. But just because this Atlanta-based airport overflows with travelers 24/7 doesn't mean it's immune to delays. Hartsfield-Jackson showed a significant improvement in its on-time departure performance compared to the first part of 2011, with the percentage of flights leaving on time rising by about 8 percent. Still, this popular spot could stand to improve overall.

The layover lowdown:

Travelers cite the airport's heavy crowds and slow-moving traffic as major flaws. Should you find yourself stuck with the herd of other halted passengers, refuel at one of the 114 food and beverage hot spots located throughout the airport or browse one of the 236 concession stands to snag some reading material while you wait.

9. McCarran International Airport (LAS)

Las Vegas

Sure, spending a few hours at Las Vegas' airport may come as an annoyance, but at least there are plenty of diversions. To make the most of your lag time, pack a thick wallet for shopping and gaming at one of the airport's numerous stores and slot machines. If getting to your final destination on time is a higher priority than staying entertained, consider flying through another airport with a better overall on-time departure and arrival performance.

The layover lowdown:

Delayed passengers express dissatisfaction with McCarran's facilities and signage. If you have some time to kill, test Lady Luck at one of the slot machines or, if you're in Terminal 1, explore the airport's extensive aviation museum.

[In Pictures: America's Best and Worst Airlines 2012]

8. San Francisco Intercontinental Airport (SFO)

San Francisco

Foggy San Francisco carries a long history of delaying travelers. The number of flights leaving on-time slid slightly compared to the first half of 2011. With such a high frequency of layovers, the Bay area's major hub is constantly overflowing with delayed passengers. That said, unlike many airports across the country, SFO features high-tech facilities and a myriad of specialty stores and restaurants.

The layover lowdown:

Unsurprisingly, San Francisco's sleek airport appeals to passengers. If you're waiting for the fog to clear, feast on some of San Fran's beloved treats, available at the Ghirardelli and See's Candy stores. Then, exercise your credit card at the high-end duty-free shops located in the international terminal.

7. Houston Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

Houston

Houston's expansive international airport could use an upgrade based on its lackluster on-time departure track record. IAH's timeliness has slipped since early 2011, with the number of flights departing on time dropping by nearly 4 percent. A minor consolation: the airport's on-time arrival performance, which increased slightly.

The layover lowdown:

This sprawling airport has everything you need to stay busy during a long layover. Passengers suggest hopping over to Terminal E for the best dining and shopping options. Another plus: IAH offers free Wi-Fi.

6. Fort Lauderdale International Airport (FLL)

Fort Lauderdale

Like Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson, Fort Lauderdale International Airport's performance has climbed steadily since 2011. The number of flights departing on time increased from 77.5 percent in the first six months of 2011 to 84.7 percent in the first six months of 2012. Additionally, Fort Lauderdale has improved its on-time arrival performance. 

The layover lowdown:

But Fort Lauderdale's improving track record doesn't necessarily make it an ideal spot for a layover. The biggest complaint among Fort Lauderdale travelers: the cramped departure gates. To ease your unpleasant time in transit, indulge in some retail therapy at one of the duty-free shops found in Concourses D, E, F, and H.

[In Pictures: World's Longest Flights]

5. Miami International Airport (MIA)

Miami

Although Miami International Airport's on-time departure performance has steadily climbed, increasing by about 6 percent between 2011 and 2012, there's still ample room for improvement. Recent travelers report timeliness as an issue at MIA, citing instances where they nearly missed their flight connections due to the airport's slow-moving traffic.

The layover lowdown:

Travelers agree that the most dreaded part of traveling through Miami is the airport's overall sluggishness and minimal offerings for stranded passengers. But just because you're stuck with time to spare doesn't mean your time in transit has to be a complete loss. If you're delayed, check out the art installations on display throughout North Terminal D, Central Terminals E and F, and South Terminal J.

4. O'Hare International Airport (ORD)

Chicago

Travelers might expect O'Hare—the nation's second-busiest airport—to impress. But with less than 20 percent of flights leaving on time, a stopover in Chicago often leaves passengers disappointed. That said, O'Hare has managed to better its arrival performance by more than 11 percent compared to the first half of 2011, resulting in less time on the plane.

The layover lowdown:

The majority of travelers flying through O'Hare express dissatisfaction with the hub's long lines and unfriendly staff. But fortunately for delayed guests, O'Hare's massive airport touts a variety of services and amenities. To unwind, travelers suggest retreating one of the airport's airline lounges. To entertain youngsters, head to Concourse B in Terminal 1 to marvel at the massive Brachiosaurus cast skeleton provided by the Field Museum.

3. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Los Angeles

With its title as the world's fourth busiest airport, LAX could certainly win a popularity contest based on its number of incoming and outgoing passengers. Just because many travelers choose to fly in and out of L.A. doesn't mean it's layover-worthy. LAX's on-time departure performance from January through June 2012 rests at 83.8 percent, just 3 percentage points above the first six months of 2011.

The layover lowdown:

Stalled passengers often complain about LAX's unfriendly staff and poor signage. Other travelers cite the scarce food options within the terminal as a major drawback. To take your mind off the less-than-ideal situation, travelers recommend surfing the web through T-Mobile HotSpot. It will cost you (starting at $6.00 an hour), but at least it will keep you busy and informed at your gate.

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2. Dulles International Airport (IAD)

Washington, D.C.

Although Washington, D.C.'s international airport has improved its on-time departure performance since the beginning of 2011, Dulles continues to slow down flyers. Dulles has invested a lot of money in its infrastructure, building out an AeroTrain (an airport train system that connects passengers from the main terminal to A, B, and C gates), but unfortunately, the renovations don't appear to boost punctuality. Dulles' on-time arrival rating isn't much better than its on-time departure rating, with 79.9 percent of flights reaching the gate on time between January and June 2012.

The layover lowdown:

As far as poor customer satisfaction goes, Dulles takes the cake. This can be attributed to Dulles' limited selection of amenities, shops, and restaurants. Should you experience a long layover, your best bet is to sit back and savor a brew at an airport bar.

1. Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

Newark, N.J.

Newark saw a higher number of on-time departures compared to the first six months of 2011, but it's got a long, long way to go. Over 25 percent of its flights left more than 15 minutes behind their scheduled departure times. Another drawback: Newark's poor on-time arrival rate, which consistently lowers its standings in the Bureau of Transportation Statistics report.

The layover lowdown:

You'll have your pick of newsstands, cafés, bookstores, and food courts regardless the terminal you're in. Still, passengers describe the airport as lacking shops and entertainment options, so pack your own gadgets if you dread extra time at the gate.

[In Pictures: 11 Worst U.S. Airports for Layovers]

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