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America's Worst Airports
by Rudy Maxa for Marketplace

Worst Airports

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the airport, what with United's summer labor problems ending and the weather mostly behaving itself, comes word from Consumer Reports magazine that there's still big trouble. Especially at a handful of the country's airports. Crowded skies, runway congestion, and airport construction are all making flying miserable.

The magazine names O'Hare, La Guardia, Miami International, Newark, and Westchester County as the worst airports in the country when it comes to delays and lack of value fares. This is no surprise. O'Hare has been ground zero of the United slowdown. Miami is overwhelmed, and until American finishes its new terminal, it'll stay that way. La Guardia and Newark have too many planes trying to get in and out, and even a spot of bad weather creates havoc. Westchester, well, I frankly don't know why Westchester made the list of shame. I note that all of those airports are dominated by the big carriers, Southwest and other discount airlines have precious few inroads at those airports. That explains the generally high fares.

What's the moral here? Search out smaller airports, like Oakland instead of San Francisco, BWI instead of Washington Reagan National, Ft. Lauderdale instead of Miami International. That's where you'll find the low-cost carriers. If you must fly from the aforementioned airports, always aim for early in the day. Department of Transportation stats for April, for example, show that 94 percent of all flights departing Atlanta between 7 and 8 a.m. left the gate within 15 minutes of their scheduled departure time. Between 7 and 8 p.m., however, only 70 percent did.

One more thing: If you absolutely, positively have to be there on time, try to take a non-stop flight. I'm Rudy Maxa, The Savvy Traveler, for Marketplace.

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