The airports you choose to depart from and fly into can have a significant impact on your trip for better or worse. Some are known for hassles that can put a wrench in the best-laid plans, like endless lines in security that cause missed flights, while others are well-organized and efficient, with features like museums, yoga, and live music that can make even long layovers enjoyable.
If you have the option when planning your next trip, you’ll want to consider flying through one of these airports, many of which have fabulous updates to enhance the passenger experience even more.
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY), New Orleans, Louisiana
The new and improved terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is an architectural wonder and one of the most magnificent you’ll ever step in. The complex opened in 2019 and changed the game for travel to the Big Easy. The old airport was originally set on the grounds of the Moisant Stock Yards, while this is light-filled and inspired by the geography of the state’s Delta region and the curves of the Mississippi River, with a gentle arc on three sides.
There are 35 gates spread through three concourses which have 40 different food, drink, and retail outlets along with stages for live music. Many of the restaurants represent the rich culinary scene New Orleans is known for, such as Café du Monde, Mondo, and Emeril’s Table. Those who travel with their four-legged friends will appreciate the pet relief area post-security and there are three rooms for nursing mothers along with plenty of New Orleans-themed works of art throughout.
San Francisco International Airport (SFO), San Francisco, California
SFO was recently named 2022’s best large airport in the country by the Wall Street Journal. In recent years it’s received many accolades, such as best overall concessions program, while offering unique services like a hair salon, yoga studio, and even an aquarium. It’s also home to the world’s first accredited airport art museum, featuring both permanent and temporary exhibits.
The $2.5 billion upgrade of Harvey Milk Terminal 1 delivered many enhancements for a more comfortable, efficient experience, including plenty of high-tech features. Upon entering the terminal, travelers are welcomed by self-serve check-in kiosks and touchless options for using a phone to check into their flight, printing bag tags, and dropping off bags. There are digital “dashboards” throughout the terminal to help guide passengers too. Plus, many outposts of local eateries like the famous Boudin Bakery are available and live music is occasionally hosted as well.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Sea-Tac, Washington
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport was recently named the Best Airport in North America at the 2022 World Airport Awards based on the annual global airport customer satisfaction survey. It evaluates every aspect of the journey for passengers from check-in to departure. It’s not a big surprise, thanks to the brand-new international arrivals facility that includes an aerial walkway to directly connect passengers to the grand hall for customs processing and baggage claim. The time-saving technology SEA offers is what passengers can really appreciate, however. It includes a free option for reserving a space in the TSA security line and the ability to order food and get it delivered anywhere in the airport.
Passengers at SEA can also enjoy over 100 works of art from the Port of Seattle’s collection, relieve stress and soothe muscles with a massage, or enjoy a moment of silence in the meditation room.
LaGuardia Airport (LGA), New York City, New York
In 2021, LaGuardia, which was once compared to a third world country by President Joe Biden, won the best new airport award for its updated Terminal B. It opened the final two gates in July 2022 as part of an $8 billion overhaul. On the way to the gates there are children’s play areas where the kids can even use a tablet to customize a plane and watch it fly on huge digital screen, along with indoor parks with trees and plants. Inspirational art was incorporated into the check-in area and the terminal was also designed to reduce energy costs and save water as the world’s first to achieve LEED v4 Gold Certification by the US Green Building Council to prove itself in terms of sustainability.
Tampa International Airport (TPA), Tampa, Florida
The J.D. Power North America Airport Satisfaction Study ranked Tampa International Airport at No. 1 when it comes to overall traveler satisfaction, considering airport arrival and departure, the terminal facilities, baggage claim, security, check-in, and food, beverage, and retail. Many years have been spent on airport improvements and developing more space for passengers to relax on the premises. But it’s long had its passionate fans thanks to the hub-and-spoke model design that means no long walks and wide terminals with check-in lines that move quickly. The multiple terminals are connected by a monorail-like system that makes it fast and easy to get anywhere you want to go.
Dining is a standout with plenty of local spots that frequent flyers really appreciate, and when it comes to cleanliness, TPA has had a reputation for being immaculately clean for over a half-century.