The best and worst airports to have a layover, according to a travel expert who flies 200,000 miles a year (2024)

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Joey Hadden

The best and worst airports to have a layover, according to a travel expert who flies 200,000 miles a year (1)

  • Connecting flights add travel time and a higher risk of delays or cancellations.
  • Flight expert Gilbert Ott says some airports are better for layovers than others.
  • The best have nice lounges, a variety of food, and are easy to navigate.

The best and worst airports to have a layover, according to a travel expert who flies 200,000 miles a year (2)

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The best and worst airports to have a layover, according to a travel expert who flies 200,000 miles a year (3)

The best and worst airports to have a layover, according to a travel expert who flies 200,000 miles a year (4)

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Nonstop flights are better than connecting ones — obviously. A trip with a layover adds travel time that would be better spent at a destination and opportunities for things to go wrong, from delays to cancellations.

Flight expert Gilbert Ott agrees, but sometimes, a layover is the only option.

"I try to avoid them, but a lot of the best places worth going to these days do not have direct flights from faraway places," Ott, who flies about 200,000 miles a year and shares his insights on his blog, God Save the Points, told Business Insider.

In Ott's experience, some layovers are more bearable than others based on where you connect.

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In general, Ott says it's best to have a layover in an airline's hub airport in case of delays and cancellations.

"In any case, you want to be in a place where the airline has a strong presence because you're going to have layers of support," he said. "And if I miss a connecting flight, there's probably another flight because it's a hub."

But when it comes to killing time, navigating terminals, and minimizing chances of delays, some airports offer a better layover experience than others.

These are the best and worst airlines to have a layover in, according to Ott.

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A variety of upscale lounges and an on-site hotel make Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport one of the best for layovers.

The best and worst airports to have a layover, according to a travel expert who flies 200,000 miles a year (5)

Ott said Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) is one of the best for layovers because there are many premium lounges.

"It's one of those places where if you do have a layover and you really need to kill time, there are both top-notch lounges and an airport hotel directly in the terminal," Ott said.

Ott said one of his favorite lounges in the US is DFW's Capital One lounge. Amex Centurion and Delta Sky Club also have lounges in Dallas, and a Chase Sapphire Lounge is set to open there in the future.

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Meanwhile, Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Kentucky, is small, and there's not much to do there.

According to Ott, smaller airports are generally the worst for layovers.

"I think there's a just inherent advantage to being a big airport because big airports can attract retail," he said.

For example, Ott told BI he often has layovers at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Kentucky.

"I've been there a lot. It's not a fun place to wait for flights," he said. "You have nothing to do."

In 2019, BI's Katie Warren reported that the Kentucky airport was the smallest she'd ever been to, with just two runways.

However, travelers with a tight layover may appreciate that Blue Grass Airport has the shortest walk to the gate in the US at just 0.11 miles.

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Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is ideal for shopping between flights.

The best and worst airports to have a layover, according to a travel expert who flies 200,000 miles a year (7)

"I like Seattle-Tacoma Airport because they've done a really good job of cultivating more local stores and Seattle-centric things," Ott said. "If you've got an hour and 45 minutes, it's easy to kill time there."

Ott added that he's enjoyed sifting through records at a music store during layovers and sampling Washington state wines at a bar.

Business Insider previously reported that the airport's shops reflect the Pacific Northwest experience, with stores like Show Pony, Made in Washington, and Discover Puget Sound.

"It doesn't feel as sterile and generic as some airports. You actually get a sense of Seattle. It's not just an airport somewhere," Ott said.

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Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has many amenities, but it can be brutal for layovers due to frequent weather-related delays and cancellations.

The best and worst airports to have a layover, according to a travel expert who flies 200,000 miles a year (8)

No one wants to put their trip on pause over delays and cancellations — especially in a connecting airport.

According to Ott, this may be more likely to happen when flying out of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia due to frequent storms. And the fact that it's the busiest airport in the world probably doesn't help. BI previously reported that the airport has had mass cancellations in summers and winters due to storms.

"I've had hellacious experiences in Atlanta because of the weather," Ott said. "It's a good airport in the sense that there are lots of flights and places to kill time. It's a bad airport in the sense that it's caught up in more storms than most airports."

Ott added that the airport has plenty of amenities but can be overwhelming to navigate.

"There are so many terminals, and you're taking a tram everywhere. They have some nice stuff in them, but it's a hike," he said.

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Los Angeles International Airport is among the best for connecting flights because it offers easy access to upgraded terminals.

The best and worst airports to have a layover, according to a travel expert who flies 200,000 miles a year (9)

According to Ott, some airports don't allow passengers to travel between terminals they're not departing from.

Since many travelers don't leave the airport between connecting flights, waiting to board can be a drag for those flying out of terminals with few shops, restaurants, and amenities. Ott told BI that international terminals typically have better amenities than domestic ones.

But the terminals are connected at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), which is why it's one of Ott's favorite airports for layovers.

"If you're domestic itinerary, you can still go to the international terminal, which has better food, shops, and lounges," he said. "You can kill time at LAX for hours."

LAX's Tom Bradley International Terminal (Terminal B) was updated in 2023. BI previously reported that the terminal has comfy seating — each with its own power ports — a range of food and bar options, and an exceptional Sky Club.

The upgrade included adding a walkway connecting Terminal 3, which also received an upgrade, to Terminal B. The walk takes five to 20 minutes, so there's no need to catch a bus. This is an especially useful perk for those catching an international connecting flight.

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But London Heathrow Airport may be the worst place in the world to have a layover because it's challenging to travel between terminals.

The best and worst airports to have a layover, according to a travel expert who flies 200,000 miles a year (10)

"London Heathrow Airport is an atrocious airport for connections — one of the worst in the world, by far," Ott said. Why? Getting from one terminal to another is a journey in itself.

"Some terminals are miles apart, and there is no tram that runs between all of them," he said.

For example, Ott said if you land in Terminal 3 with British Airways, you may connect in Terminal 5.

"You have to go through Terminal 3 and take a bus, which can take up to 30 minutes to arrive. Then, you'll take a long bus ride all around the airport to the other side," he said. "And then you may still end up with another tram or bus ride because Terminal 5 has three terminals within it — A, B, and C. It's an impossible airport for short connections."

According to the airline's website, traveling from one terminal to another can take up to 40 minutes or longer, depending on where you're headed.

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Singapore Changi Airport is the best place to spend a layover. It offers local food, on-site hotels, and a ton of activities.

The best and worst airports to have a layover, according to a travel expert who flies 200,000 miles a year (11)

"For best, Singapore Changi Airport is just untouchable," Ott said.

Ott added that the airport has multiple hotels, local art shops, and no shortage of things to do, see, and eat.

"Some of the best local food is at the airport because the famous places in Singapore set up locations there," he said.

There's a movie theater, a pool, a butterfly garden, and a wide range of shops.

But the real spectacle is probably the Jewel. The retail and entertainment complex, connected to Terminal 1, is home to activities like a ropes course, hedge maze, and topiary walk. The centerpiece is the Rain Vortex — the world's largest indoor waterfall spanning seven stories.

"You can spend an hour just looking at that," Ott said of the Rain Vortex. "I would have a layover there any day."

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The best and worst airports to have a layover, according to a travel expert who flies 200,000 miles a year (2024)

FAQs

What airport has the most layovers? ›

San Diego ranks as the number one U.S. airport for layovers, according to data across 16 ranking factors.

How bad are layovers? ›

Nonstop flights are better than connecting ones — obviously. A trip with a layover adds travel time that would be better spent at a destination and opportunities for things to go wrong, from delays to cancellations.

Is it better to fly nonstop or layover? ›

Direct flights can also contribute to better health during your journey. Without the extended periods spent in airports and on planes that come with layovers, you can mitigate factors like fatigue, disrupted sleep, and increased exposure to germs.

What airport has the most connecting flights? ›

Here is a list of the 10 most connected airports worldwide in 2023.
  • #1 Heathrow (LHR), London, UK.
  • #2 John F. ...
  • #3 Schiphol (AMS) , Amsterdam, Netherlands.
  • #4 Kuala Lumpur International (KUL), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  • #5 Haneda (HND), Tokyo, Japan.
  • #6 Frankfurt Main (FRA), Frankfurt, Germany.
Apr 30, 2024

What is the longest a layover can be? ›

Most airlines define a layover as any connection of less than 4 hours on a domestic flight or less than 24 hours on an international flight. Rules about when stopovers are allowed varies by airline, and it will often depend on whether the ticket is an award ticket or a paid ticket.

What is the most transited airport in the world? ›

1. Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL), US: 104.6 million. Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) is not only the busiest in the world by almost 10 million passengers per year, but it has also held the top spot in this list every year except one since 1998.

Do pilots hang out on layovers? ›

Some pilots “bid for layovers to go out and drink and party,” according to the Alaska Airlines employee. “We get together as a crew and after a long day of serving customers and on our feet, everyone wants to unwind and go have a drink and a fun meal together,” she said.

Is it illegal to get off at a layover? ›

Though it is not illegal, the practice is strictly prohibited by airlines in their contracts of carriage. And carriers have shown an erratic but heavy hand in administering punishment for those caught, eliminating a skiplagger's frequent flier miles in one instance and suing a passenger in another.

How many hours layover is safe? ›

Typically, international layovers run around 2 to 3 hours. It's the minimum for a smooth transfer, including customs, security, and boarding. If you're switching airlines or terminals, 4 to 5 hours is safer to handle delays. Airport size, connections, and peak times impact layover lengths.

What happens to luggage during a layover? ›

If you have purchased a connecting flight, you will find that most often, your checked baggage will be taken care of, and will be moved from your first plane to your second plane. If you are not asked at check-in, you should check that they will check your luggage through to your last stop.

Do you always get off the plane during a layover? ›

Do you stay on the plane for a layover? In most cases, you'll have to switch to another plane, but sometimes (rarely) if the plane you are on is continuing to your next destination, you'll stay in your seat.

How long should a good layover be? ›

The recommended layover time for domestic flights is normally one hour. However, as previously stated, you may require longer if your flights are booked with two different airlines, if you are traveling to a very busy airport or if you require special assistance.

Which airline flies the most passengers? ›

American Airlines

What airline flies the most destination? ›

American Airlines

Which US airport has the most nonstop destinations? ›

DFW International Airport is now flying to more destinations nonstop than any other airport in the country, a title it held briefly before the pandemic and that it has run away with as the Sun Belt becomes the dominant air travel corridor.

Which airport has the most transit? ›

Atlanta regained the top position in 2021. and has held it since. Alternatively, London has the world's busiest city airport system by passenger count. As of 2022, the four busiest airports in the world are located in the United States.

Which airport has the most nonstop destinations? ›

The Airports with the Most Direct Connections Around the World
RankingAirportNumber of direct connections
1Frankfurt Airport (FRA)330
2Istanbul Airport (IST)309
3Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG)308
4Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS)293
16 more rows
Jan 12, 2023

Which city has the most connecting flights? ›

Once again, the London Heathrow Airport (LHR) maintains its number one spot, with quite a significant ICI margin over its nearest rival. On the busiest day in 2018, the airport listed 66,000 possible international connections between flights arriving and departing at the airport within a six-hour window.

Which airport has the most airline hubs? ›

Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport claims the top spot on a number of lists, including the busiest airport in the world in passenger traffic, and it's also home to the world's largest airport hub for Delta Air Lines.

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