The Most Stressful Airport In America Isn't What You'd Expect

While traveling to a favorite destination is a common stress buster for many, getting there might exacerbate anxiety and frustration first. According to a 2019 survey by Priority Pass, airports are filled with stressors. Over 60% of travelers say they fret over getting stuck in traffic before their flight, and nearly the same percentage worry about losing their luggage. Other airport headaches include dealing with delays, making connecting flights, running into TSA issues, and losing a friend or child in the crowd.

You might assume that these issues would be amplified at large and chaotic air hubs with millions of passengers and flight paths to dozens of different countries. Surprisingly, the most stressful airport in the U.S. is a much smaller port used primarily for domestic travel: Albany International Airport, located in Albany, New York.

The ranking comes from a 2023 study by the Hawaiian Islands based on Google reviews. Researchers found that 70.2% of reviews for Albany International expressed feelings of stress, trumping all other U.S. airports analyzed in the study. Hawaiian Islands added that poor customer service was a common complaint among the airport's travelers and that many reviewers recommended New York City's JFK or LaGuardia Airports instead.

Other airports that made the list

Drive 2½ hours south of Albany International Airport, and you'll find New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport, the second most stressful airport in America, according to Hawaiian Islands' data. Google reviews point to a complicated layout, unhelpful staff, and long security lines as just some of the stressors visitors to the airport experience. The study also noted that Newark Liberty racks up far more delayed flights (36.3%) than the national average (20.9%). Oakland International Airport in California took third place on the list of the country's most stressful airports, followed by Florida's Miami International and Orlando International.

Additionally, the study looked beyond the U.S. and discovered that American airports tend to be less stress-inducing than European airports. In fact, 9 of the world's top 10 most stressful airports are in Europe, and Toronto Pearson International took the top spot for North America. So, which airports are the most emotionally taxing to travel through? The data suggests that the U.K.'s Manchester Airport is the most nerve-wracking in the world, with Greece's Heraklion International and the U.K.'s London Stansted rounding out the top three.

How to cope with airport stress

If air travel already puts you on edge, you might want to swap one of the most stressful airports for a reliable one instead. MarketWatch compiled a list of the best U.S. airports based on the fewest canceled or delayed flights, the most affordable airfares, and the shortest security waits — all factors that can help keep stress at bay. According to its data, Daniel K. Inouye International in Honolulu was the least stressful airport, followed by San Jose International and Fresno Yosemite International.

If you can't choose a low-stress port, the next best option is to come prepared. Arrive at the airport early, taking delays like traffic into account. Keep all your travel documents on hand, ideally in a passport holder or hidden pocket where they're unlikely to get lost or stolen. Also, be sure to check flight or travel restrictions before your departure, including luggage regulations and visa requirements.

Still, even the best preparation isn't always enough to avoid travel snags. Whether stuck in an hour-long security line or dealing with rude staff, sometimes the best thing you can do is breathe and accept the situation. "While waiting in line or sitting at the gate, take slow, deep breaths in through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. This can help calm your nervous system and reduce anxiety," therapist Daniel Rinaldi told Real Simple. Staying composed might help you problem-solve and reach your destination as smoothly as possible.