Last Modified: June 30, 2012.
I’ve been traveling in various capacities for my current employer since August of ’98. A lot of this travel is through the air, and I’ve seen a lot of airports. While there really isn’t much of a choice which airport to use when you are flying to a city–even Dallas, Chicago, and Houston only have two major airports–knowing what to expect at a particular airport can be handy. With some airports, I’ve only caught connections, and with others I’ve had to pick up rental cars, use shuttles, etc. These airports are in no particular order, and there may be old information on some airports that I haven’t been to in a while. This will update as I visit new places.
|Airport||Date/ Not Recent||Connection/ Rental||Comments|
|Dallas/Fort Worth||Jun-12||Rental||American Airlines hub. When traveling to smaller cities with American Eagle, you take a bus to A.E.’s standalone terminal. Connection between the 5 connected terminals is handled with a train that’s a pretty rough ride. Luggage is handled by several luggage pickups placed at different places along the terminal circle. Rental cars sheltered in open garage. Internet access by T-Mobile, $7.95/day.|
|Houston-Intercontinental (Bush)||Oct-10||Rental||Continental hub. Continental Express traffic is handled with a separate terminal connected with their TerminalLink electric rail. The rail connects Terminals B, C, and D. If you’re in A, look for the bus shuttle or you’ll be going through security again. Wear tennis shoes. Luggage is handled in one luggage pickup area for each terminal, the C terminal has over 12 pickup belts. Rental cars are handled by a single facility and airport shuttles. All cars are sheltered in an open garage. Wireless access handled by Boingo. Terminal E is the place to be, with Pappasito’s, Pappadeaux’s, and other good restaurants.|
|Houston-Hobby||Jan-07||Rental||Southwest hub. Security at the entrance of each terminal, so if you have to change planes in Hobby you get scanned again if you change terminals. Luggage was checked out of the area by guards, but they’ve relaxed that now. Wireless is handled by Sprint, $10/2 hours.|
|Gregg County (Longview, TX)||Not||Rental||American Eagle destination. Luggage pickup consists of a 10 foot belt that moves quickly; don’t blink or you wait for the luggage to come back around. Cars are in an unsheltered parking lot.|
|Jackson, MS||Not||Rental||Northwest Airlines destination. The Northwest Airlines luggage pickup is split between two belts, with a Southwest Airlines belt in the middle. I sat at the wrong belt for 20 minutes before seeing my luggage on another belt. Cars are in an unsheltered parking lot.|
|Memphis||Jan-06||Connection||Northwest Airlines hub. “A wretched hive of scum and evil.” I could be biased. Most restuarants are located past security, so if you get rerouted and have to come out of the secured area, you have the choice of eating at a local pub-style with terrible food or McDonalds. On my last visit half the eating places were behind a construction wall. The hotel at the airport is a decent bare-bones facility. Luggage is handled in one luggage pickup area.|
|Columbus, OH||Jun-10||Rental||Multiple airline destination. Renting cars is inconvenient if you are not picking a car up at the end of an airline journey. Cars are protected in an open garage. Luggage is handled in one luggage pickup area. CMH is unique in that it has free wireless internet access, but turn off your proxies so that it will redirect properly. Most food is outside the secured area, but there is a Chili’s Too in Terminal A that is decent. Terminal B has a Max & Erma’s and a couple of sports pubs that are tolerable.|
|Kansas City||Mar-06||Rental||Multiple airline destination. Car rental is offsite and on unsheltered parking lots. Luggage pickup was moved post 9/11 to three central places in each terminal from near the individual gates. Each set of about eight gates is in its own secure area. Sprint provides for wireless access.|
|Lafayette, LA||Not||Rental||Multiple airline destination. Northwest Airlines’ operation out of here is completely unsatisfactory. Continental and Delta do better here. Luggage pickup is all in one location. Cars are on unsheltered parking lots. The food at the restaurant made me sick once. The phones have been ripped out for over a year, denying anyway to access the Internet at the airport unless you plunk down for the airport club membership.|
|Phoenix||Not||Connection||America West hub. Even with its speedwalks, I had not walked more in an airport than Sky Harbor. Plenty of restaurants in the terminals.|
|Denver-Stapleton||Jan-08||Rental||United hub. The worst luggage handling I’ve experienced. Luggage is moved from all terminals to its own terminal, and the rail transportation was so slow that the luggage actually beat me to the baggage claim. Instead of speeding up the rail service to fix this, they slowed the baggage delivery. The airport is actually about 30 miles east of Denver, making a nice drive to Downtown. Rental cars are in open parking lots. Security for all terminals is routed through four gates at one entry point, creating serious backlogs. The United Red Carpet Clubs are not worth the $45. Update: June 12th, 2005: United is stopping its dysfunctional automated baggage system. Ethernet access is provided by Quest for $9/day; Cingular provides 802.11 wireless access for $10 per 2 hours.
If you’re lucky enough to get a flight from Terminal A, you can avoid the rail transportation and walk across the bridge. The security lines are a lot shorter than the integrated security in front of the trains.
|Grand Junction, CO||Jun-05||Rental||United destination. Luggage was quickly unloaded after the plane arrived at the gate. View of the mountains is great. Cars in open parking lot. The once free-but-weak wireless internet access has been replaced with stronger, pay wireless.|
|Casper, WY||Not||Rental||Great Plains destination. The only destination where I had to travel through two hubs. When I got to Denver via Chicago, Great Plains combined a flight to Vernal, UT, and Casper, WY, so that those who were going to Vernal had to fly with us to Casper first. The plane was smaller than even your normal prop plane; it was a 25-passenger metal interior plane. The engines were so loud I asked for Bose headphones for Christmas. Rental cars in open parking lot.|
|Chicago-O’Hare||Jun-12||Connection||United hub. Large walkways between terminals, but speedwalks and escalators are well employed. I’ve not picked up luggage or rental cars here. Internet by Boingo.|
|Detroit||May-08||Connection||Northwest hub. Much nicer place than Memphis. The tunnel between Terminal A and Terminal B has a large speedwalk with a light show and music produced by my wife’s uncle. Plenty of restaurants in the terminal, and judicious placement of speedwalks and in-terminal monorail make up for the insanely long Terminal A. I’ve not picked up luggage or rental cars here. Huge, perhaps 40-foot diagonal TV screens with closed captioning keep CNN in your view at all times—a blessing and a curse. Internet access provided by Boingo at $7.95/day, and Boingo required a software download that furnished your password for you.|
|Minneapolis||Not||Connection||Northwest hub. Not as nice as Detroit but still better than Memphis. No rentals or luggage pickup. Not as many restaurants as Detroit but not nearly as noisy either. Good phone placement for business users.|
|Calgary||Jun-12||Rental||United/American destination. First airport where I’ve received the whole Customs treatment. When I was ready to come back to the States, I got to the airport 3 hours in advance and still almost missed the plane. There are about 8 lines of people getting passports checked. I waited until the front of one of the lines, when the clerk responsible for my line decided to take a break. She directed me to the front of another line. When I showed up at the other line, the other clerk told me to go all the way back to the end of his line. I said that I could not wait another hour and that the other clerk told me to come to this line. After more refusal I raised my voice, asked to see his manager, explained the situation again for all clerks (and I suppose all travelers too!) to hear. He took my passport, ripped the cover off to check and stamp it, and sent me on. When I got to the scanning line, my laptop case tested positive for explosives! I got pulled out of line until another clerk said that the scanner had been running hot and giving false positives. After my case got blessed by another machine, I ran to the gate, which was boarding. Getting my luggage through customs upon arrival was an experience, and it would be easy to get lost, which almost happened to me. Finding the rental agencies was rather difficult, and one of the elevators that I tried closed but did not elevate (yes, I pushed the proper button). I had to hit the button to open the doors and use another elevator.
Update, Dec. 17, 2011: Experience was a lot better. Finished the whole customs process in 30 mins.
|Bakersfield, CA||Apr-08||Rental||United, US Air destination. When I was in Bakersfield four years ago, the baggage claim was outside, and it was an America West destination. The airport has been modernized, and baggage claim has been moved inside. The gates have free wireless internet access and plenty of accessible power outlets.|
|Farmington, NM||Not||Rental||America West destination. The field is high on a plateau which makes for a nice view of the surrounding area. Luggage pickup was a simple sloped platform. Car rentals were outside in a parking lot.|
|St. Louis||Oct-05||Rental||Trans World-turned-American hub. I’ve not rented a car here, but I’ve parked plenty of times at the East Terminal without incident. Luggage was in one area on a very long belt, and guards checked tags against tickets.|
|College Station, TX||Not||University shuttle||Continental destination. Luggage was made available off of a cart on the tarmac. Did not rent here.|
|Lubbock, TX||Not||Rental||American Eagle destination. Security was run by courteous elderly ladies, but this was pre-9/11. Cars were in an uncovered parking lot.|
|Atlanta||Feb-06||Connection||Delta hub. Good restaurants in the terminals, including Hoolihan’s and their wonderful stuffed mushrooms. Wireless internet is available for a daily fee. Did not rent or pick up luggage here.|
|Midland, TX||Not||Rental||Multiple airline destination. Luggage and rental cars were convenient in one area. One time I left my jacket in the car, and I had already passed security. My name got called on the intercom, and I looked down from the second-floor gates to the first-floor rental car agency, who was holding my jacket. Of course they wouldn’t toss it up, I had to go back through security to get it. When I came through the second time I got searched like I was a terrorist. The Business Center never seemed to be open when I needed internet access. There was one phone on each side of the terminal, with no modem access.|
|Orlando||Dec-96||Disney shuttle||Multiple airline destination. Terminals were accessed in separate buildings by train. Luggage was picked up in one area which was very close to the vans that took us to Disney World.|
|Oklahoma City||Mar-06||Rental||Multiple airline destination. Airport underwent a massive facelift. Baggage was collected in one area for pickup. Rental was particularly a pain because some rental car agencies would not necessarily be open when the plane arrived at the airport. Avis is 24/7. Fee-based wireless internet introduced in February, 2006.|
|Chicago-Midway||Aug-06||Connection||Construction has finished, leaving a look that is similar to Houston-Hobby. Wireless internet is $6 for two hours.|
|Dallas-Love||Not||Connection||Southwest hub. Did not rent or pickup luggage. Usually stopped there on the way between Houston-Hobby and Oklahoma City. During one return trip from Houston to OKC, our plane took off, and several minutes after takeoff the plane shook up and down what seemed like 10 feet at a time. The shaking made me nauseous but eventually tapered off. A half hour into the flight, the pilot came on and apologized for the shaking. We were the last flight to leave Love Field before it was shut down; a tornado had formed near the airport!|
|Corpus Christi||Feb-06||Rented||Continental and Southwest destination. The airport had just gone through an aesthetic and security makeover. Car rentals were picked up in an unsheltered parking lot. Baggage was gathered in one location and easy to locate. Airport has city-wide internet; this was the only place where cctexas actually worked. When returning the rental car, watch the signs; the road to return cars is actually about ½-mile from the terminal.|
|Las Vegas||Mar-08||Connection||Multiple airline destination. I love an airport with slots. The luggage area is huge, even bigger than Houston-Bush. It takes some time to locate your flight, especially when over half seemed to be from the same airline (Southwest). Upon leaving Vegas, the pilot gave us some suspense. Our plane was heavy, and we sat on the tarmac for a long time, nearly an hour, on the short runway awaiting clearence. The pilot said had we stayed 5 minutes longer, we would have needed to return to the gate and refuel.
Mar 2008 update: Slots are still in all the terminals, but only one restaurant was working. There were no outlets in the gate area.
|Nashville||Not||Connection||Barely remember this airport; passing through on a Southwest flight.|
|New Orleans||Not||Rental||The thing I remember the most about this airport was that the highway access to it was quite difficult. After misreading a sign, I had to cross the bridge over Lake Ponchartrain– a bridge of several miles with no U-turn– before I could come back to the exit.|
|Tyler||Sep-05||Rental||Continental destination. The airport has four gates to Longview’s one. Single baggage claim with a long conveyor belt for easy access. Rental cars are in an unsheltered parking lot. Overall a nice airport that looks new.|
|Cincinnati||Nov-05||Connection||Delta hub. The newer terminals are starting to look similar now; large aisles with speedwalks down the middle and small seating areas near the gates make the Cincinnati terminal I was in look like Houston IAH’s Terminal E, Detroit, and Denver-Stapleton. There are more restaurants in CVG’s Concourse B and C and less in Concourse A.|
|Shreveport, LA||May-06||Rental||Destination for Continental, Northwest, and Delta. The lobby reminds me of those in Midland and Lubbock with the high amount of glass. The rental car agencies have good hours, allowing me to get a vehicle after 10pm. Rental parking is outdoor.|
|Washington-Dulles||Jul-05||Connection||United hub. Some terminals are connected with walkways, but others are accessed by strange vehicles that look like electric train cars set on monster truck chassis. Before 9am and after 6pm, only a McDonald’s is open. Starbucks opened at 5:30am. Single supplier taxi system. United customer service counters fostered long lines, but the staff was capable. Security had a lot of short lines that enabled screening high volumes of passengers.|
|Rock Springs, WY||Jun-07||Rental||Run by Great Plains Airlines. Free internet. One staff person implied one day that I would risk losing my luggage if I didn’t reduce its weight under 50 pounds. Rental cars are outside. The airport sits on a mesa east of town.|
|Cleveland, OH||Jul-07||Connection||Continental hub. AT&T Internet like Denver. Restaurants and restrooms are very close to the gates. Underground tunnel between terminals like Detroit and O’Hare.|
|Charlotte, NC||Sep-07||Connection||U.S. Airways Hub. CLTNET is completely free, without even a login. Central restaurant area that spokes out into five terminals. No tunnels, but speedwalks in every spoke. Near the gates, there aren’t many outlets at all. I found the Business Center, which was free, but several outlets didn’t work with my laptop power cable. The Carolina BBQ was pretty good.|
|Williston, ND||May-10||Rental||Great Lakes Airlines destination. One flies to Williston by landing in Dickenson first, so bring your Dramamine. Quite a small airport. Rental parking is outside.|
|San Francisco, CA||Jan-08||Connection||United pass-through. I had very good stuffed mushrooms from one of the restaurants near my gate. The gates are numbered without any letter designation for terminals, which made finding my gate a little confusing.|
|Sacramento, CA||Mar-08||Rental||United destination. Single point of access through security makes for a pretty long line. Rental cars are outside. If your bag gets there before you do, it’s left outside the ticketing area for your pickup.|
|Anchorage, AK||Jun-08||Hotel Shuttle||Northwest Airlines destination, Alaska Airlines hub. Good restaurant to gate ratio, and the TSA agents were friendly. The free internet had strong signal, but my laptop reported only fair quality. Gates have more than the average number of power outlets. Baggage check-in islands took luggage after I got my boarding pass from the kiosk.|
|Prudhoe Bay/Deadhorse, AK||Jun-08||Company||Alaska Airlines destination. Served with a half-cargo/half-passenger 737. No rental cars. No Internet.|
|Traverse City, MI||May-09||Rental||United, Northwest, Delta destination. Free internet. Rental cars are outside, but if the weather is bad and you have the #1 Gold Club, Hertz will meet you at the curb with your car.|
|Amsterdam-Schiphol, The Netherlands||Oct-10||Connection||KLM hub. Very clean and English-friendly. KLM agents were very helpful. Schiphol is serviced by the country’s light-rail system, so if one has a terribly long layover (say, 12 hours), one could catch the rail into downtown and see some sights. No internet access and not many outlets for laptops.|
|Cairo, Egypt||Oct-10||Hotel Shuttle||KLM destination. Be prepared to refuse help from strangers — they may ask for insane amounts of tips, and they may not even help you properly. If you lose baggage, report the bag as normal, then have your hotel follow-up on the bag, since the baggage phone line only speaks Arabic. No internet, no outlets for laptops.||Toronto, ON||Dec-11||Connection||Air Canada hub. Customs process was fairly smooth. Not many places to plug in for power.|
These are the airports that have come to memory; there are probably more.
My favorite airports would include Columbus, for their free wireless and close proximity to home and Lubbock for their courtesy and uncommon care for the customer. My least favorites, if you could not tell, were Memphis and Denver, with an honorable mention to Calgary for their Customs service.