Flight Risk: What Are America’s Most On-Time Airports?

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Every time one of my flights is delayed, it’s because of Chicago. It doesn’t matter whether I’m flying through there or not. Wherever I am, the city finds me and messes with my itinerary. Is it my imagination that it’s the absolute worst? Actually, no. It turns out once you crunch the numbers, the #1 worst airport for on-time departures is Chicago Midway. The #2? Chicago O’Hare. If you add up the minutes from all delayed flights out of the Windy City in 2012, you get eight years. So which of the major airports give you the best chance of getting where you’re going on time? Here they are, by seconds delayed per total passengers boarded in 2011 (most recent available).

5 Miami International Airport (MIA)

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Sum of Delays: 862,977 minutes or 599 days
Passenger Boardings: 18.3 million
Delay Per Passenger Boarded: 2.82 seconds

In Miami, your flight may be on time, but you may not be on it. Up to 1,000 passengers have missed their flight due to long lines at customs in a single day, The Miami Herald reported recently. But MIA is a relatively timely airport, especially given that it’s the 12th busiest airport in the country. If you find yourself with some extra time, instead of complaining to your Facebook friends about how miserably bored and unfairly targeted by travel catastrophe you are, take in some culture. The airport offers numerous art exhibits, including three separate galleries and installations throughout the facility. Now that’s worth posting to Facebook about.

4 John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

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Sum of Delays: 1,106,705 minutes or 769 days
Passenger Boardings: 23.7 million
Delay Per Passenger Boarded: 2.8 seconds

Ever wondered whether it makes a difference to fly out of JFK or New York City’s other airport, LaGuardia? It does. Despite the fact that LGA handles about half as many passengers, delays are 40% higher than at the larger airport. With upwards of 20 million passenger boardings annually, JFK is the largest airport on our list (the 6th largest in the country), and the only one so big that one of its terminals has its own website which makes its placement at #4 on this list even more impressive.

3 Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)

Sum of Delays: 691,626 minutes or 480 days
Passenger Boardings: 15.9 million
Delay Per Passenger Boarded: 2.61 seconds

Many a traveler passes through Minneapolis-St. Paul International, the 16th busiest airport in the nation, and yet you’ll find your travels relatively free of delays. If you do find yourself waiting, however, stop moping and start exercising””the airport offers a 1.4-mile walking path created in partnership with the American Heart Association. See that green dot on the ceiling? It means you’ve gone another tenth of a mile toward improving your heart health. If you’re really stuck, you can even take part in that other great American pastime: shopping. The Mall of America is only about 12 minutes away by light rail.

2 Seattle/Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

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Sum of Delays: 448,696 minutes or 312 days
Passenger Boardings: 16 million
Delay Per Passenger Boarded: 1.69 seconds

Planning a pilgrimage to the original Starbucks? You’re in luck. The nation’s 15th busiest airport is one of the timelier of the bunch””not even a year’s worth of delays in a year! But that’s not the only reason to look forward to your visit. The airport’s speakers play music by local musicians (“œSmells Like Teen Spirit,”anyone?) and overhead announcements are read by local greats such as Quincy Jones and Sir Mix-a-Lot. In the mood for a more tranquil environment? SeaTac’s got you covered with a Quiet Zone featuring muted TVs, no announcements and lots of power outlets. It’s as close to travel paradise as you can get without going to Hawaii, that is.

1 Honolulu International Airport (HNL)

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Sum of Delays: 112,742 minutes or 78 days
Passenger Boardings: 8.6 million
Delay Per Passenger Boarded: 0.78 seconds

Hawaiians may be laid back, but their largest airport is a stickler for punctuality, or at least as much as you can be if you’re one of the busiest airports in the country. Then again, it’s also the only airport on our list processing under 10 million passengers a year. Ironically, it’s probably one of the best airports to be stuck in. HNL’s perks include Hawaiian music and dancers in the lobby, a palm tree-lined outdoor space where your pet can relax and three separate gardens themed on the country’s Hawaiian, Chinese and Japanese heritage. Are you listening, Chicago?

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