Marooned at the airport? Waits are less painful at Fort Lauderdale, Miami International, survey finds

·3 min read

If it’s any consolation, travelers bottled up by canceled flights at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport over the weekend got to spend their extended waits at one of the nation’s best airports for passing time between planes, according to one recent survey.

After surveying 50 U.S. airports, the personal financial website FinanceBuzz created two lists of where travelers get the best and the worst service while on layovers.

Broward County’s bustling airport made the “best” list, ranked at No. 6. Miami International Airport is ranked No. 1.

The “worst” list is headed by O’Hare International in Chicago, and includes Southwest Florida International in Fort Myers and Orlando International, which are ranked 8 and 10 respectively.

The positive South Florida ratings may have been a good thing for travelers flying with Southwest Airlines, many of whom endured a fourth straight day of delays and cancellations Monday. The Dallas-based carrier had canceled nearly 2,000 flights since Friday while delaying hundreds of others.

On Monday, the airline canceled 360 flights and another 750 were delayed, according to the online tracking site FlightAware. The site showed 20 Southwest flights canceled at Fort Lauderdale. The airline blamed bad weather and air traffic control staff shortages in Florida. But the Federal Aviation Administration suggested the problems were of the airline’s making.

What’s important while waiting

FinanceBuzz used multiple data sources to calculate their rankings, among them official airport websites, the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics, and consumer sites like Yelp and LoungeBuddy. Here are the benchmarks FinanceBuzz used in judging the airports:

  • Restaurants and shops: The wider the variety, the better. Many waits are long hauls.

  • Airport lounges: Privacy, comfort, and quiet time can never be underestimated in calming the harried traveler.

  • Hotels within walking distance: No flights available until the next day? Terminal seats and floors are no places to spend the night.

  • Percentage of flights delayed by more than an hour: Layovers for connecting flights already add time to a trip. Adding unexpected time is an outright inconvenience.

  • Percentage of canceled flights: While delays are a pain, cancellations are major travel disrupters.

  • Number of gates: The fewer, the better. Stress is less if passengers don’t have to walk [or run] far to reach their next flight’s gate.

The Fort Lauderdale airport had no immediate comment on the survey results.

But for Miami International, the results are “consistent with J.D. Power also ranking MIA as the best mega airport in its 2021 North America Airport Satisfaction Study,” said airport spokesman Greg Chin in an email.

Fort Lauderdale came in 14th in the mega category, which covered 20 airports.

The J.D. Power study measured overall traveler satisfaction with mega, large, and medium North American airports by examining terminal facilities; airport arrival/departure; baggage claim; security check; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage, and retail. Chin noted that MIA “ranked highest among mega airports in the bag claim and food, beverage, and retail categories.”

The conclusion is not universal for an airport often criticized in prior years for congestion, cramped spaces, long waits for luggage and hard-to-access gates.

A travel rating service called Skytrax gives Miami a three-star rating out of five. “Connections can be subject to long distances and TSA processing is frequently inefficient,” the site says. “Shopping and dining choices are good, but service standards are inconsistent.”

In the past five years, South Florida’s major airports — including Palm Beach International Airport, which did not appear in either of the survey’s “best” or “worst” listings — have collectively spent millions on terminal expansions and upgrades as more airlines introduced new services for a tri-county region whose population has exploded to six million people.

Some of the bigger air carriers serving Fort Lauderdale — Southwest, Spirit Airlines and JetBlue Airways — all offer international flights that provide connecting service to U.S. cities.

And Delta Air Lines, which is the predominant carrier at the Broward airport’s Terminal 2, opened a new Sky Club lounge over the summer with floor-to-ceiling windows, runway views, artwork, hot food — and a bar.

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