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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

Joey Hadden   

The best and worst airports to have a layover, according to a travel expert who flies 200,000 miles a year
The best airports for connecting flights have upscale lounges, are easy to navigate, and offer a wide variety of food and activities. AP Photo/David Goldman, Jessica McGowan/Getty Images
  • 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.

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.

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.

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

A variety of upscale lounges and an on-site hotel make Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport one of the best for layovers.
The entrance to the Amex Centurion lounge (L) and the hotel's exterior at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.      Business Wire/AP Images, HUM Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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.

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

Meanwhile, Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Kentucky, is small, and there
A plane takes off from Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Kentucky.      REUTERS/JOHN SOMMERS II

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.

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

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is ideal for shopping between flights.
A gate at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.      AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

"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.

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

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has many amenities, but it can be brutal for layovers due to frequent weather-related delays and cancellations.
A winter storm at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.      AP Photo/Erik S. Lesser

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.

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

Los Angeles International Airport is among the best for connecting flights because it offers easy access to upgraded terminals.
Elevated terminals at Los Angeles International Airport.      AP Photo/Reed Saxon

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.

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

But London Heathrow Airport may be the worst place in the world to have a layover because it
A bus in front of Terminal 3 at London Heathrow Airport.      Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

"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.

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

Singapore Changi Airport is the best place to spend a layover. It offers local food, on-site hotels, and a ton of activities.
A waterfall (L) and a movie theater (R) in Singapore Changi Airport terminals.      AP Photo/David Goldman, Taylor Rains/Business Insider

"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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