I spend too much time in airplanes
Eating peanuts and getting high.
Generally speaking, airports are more pleasant than airplanes. I don’t mind airports. And despite my once upon a time claim that all airports are essentially the same space, well, that’s more of a metaphysical than a practical contention. Practically speaking the experience of airports does differ. What follows is a totally unsystematic, entirely anecdotal, non-ranking of some airports I’ve been to.
I am currently in LaGuardia (LGA) in New York. Pleasantly surprised. Clean, minimal but sufficient food options, phone chargers in the seats, proximal to Manhattan. The folks at the coffee stand messed up like 15 orders in a row, but that’s OK. I forgive them.
Verdict: LGA is fine.
Newark Airport (EWR), on the other hand, is terrible. If I had the choice of sleeping in an outhouse or spending a day at EWR, I’d take EWR. But not by much. It’s a pit.
Verdict: EWR is terrible.
Seattle Airport (SEA) is poorly run. There’s been news about it. Compared to Portland (PDX), and admittedly smaller airport that is solid, or even SFO, an operation of greater complexity, SEA struggles. Maybe they’ve turned things around, but I doubt it.
Verdict: SEA sucks. PDX is solid. SFO is decent but could be cleaner.
The best experience I’ve had at a U.S. airport is Tampa (TPA). Now this is not a major hub, however I found it super convenient. I stayed in a hotel right in the terminal, security was a breeze, everything was efficient and sound. When folks say that U.S. airports suck, relatively speaking they are correct. Omit TPA from the list though. I like it.
Verdict: TPA is excellent.
O’Hare International Airport (ORD) in Chicago exemplifies the fall of the U.S. Basically. It’s not BAD, it’s just faded. Faded glory. U.S. public infrastructure is weak and everyone knows this. ORD is a case in point, but it’s survivable.
Verdict: ORD is OK.
The Los Angeles Airport (LAX) was under construction for like two decades. It’s probably still under construction. LAX is far from everything. It is not a destination airport, although it is major.
Verdict: LAX is f***ing far.
Airports Outside the U.S.
Let’s get out of Milwaukee and we’ll talk about it.
The Singapore Airport (SIN) is everything it is cracked up to be. Singaporeans have an inordinate about of pride in their airport, but it’s totally justified. I find SIN tranquil in the extreme. They’ve got butterflies. The’ve got Indian food. They’ve got a great attached hotel. They’ve got nap rooms, showers, a gym. Security is omnipresent and unfelt. Sure you can call Singapore a soft-authoritarian state if you like. I could care.
Verdict: SIN is the best.
The Bangkok Airport (DMK), on the other hand, is not pleasant. Sinage is bad. Information is thin. Food options are minimal. It’s simultaneously packed and cavernous. I have not enjoyed my time here.
Verdict: DMK is bad.