These Airports Have The Worst Food, According To Online Reviews

When you're dashing through the airport trying to catch a connecting flight, finding a decent bite to eat will always be a secondary priority, no matter how hangry you get. Depending on how far you're traveling and how much time you've spent shuffling through the TSA line, the hanger can start to get pretty gnarly. One of the coolest things about air travel is the chance to try local fare in places you've never been before, but as it turns out, no community should ever be judged by its airport food.

There are plenty of reasons to keep expectations low when you're looking for a bite to eat between flights — think food that's been sitting out for a while and vending-machine sandwiches. The reality is that when you're hungry enough, just about any food will get the job done, no matter how questionable. But if you know you're traveling through an airport with a reputation for slim pickings in the food court department, it's never a bad idea to shove a handful of Clif bars in your carry-on bag.

To help you plan ahead for your next flight, we've taken a deep dive into sites like Reddit, Yelp, and Tripadvisor to see which airport food courts left travelers wishing for some better options. The are some brilliant airport dining options around the world, but these are some on the other end of the scale, according to online reviews.

Chicago Midway Airport

The first thing to understand about Chicago Midway is that it's one of Southwest Airlines' busiest hubs. Formerly its largest hub, Midway has remained mostly a Southwest airport through the years. While a handful of other carriers have added flights through the airport in recent years, the addition of discount airlines Frontier and Allegiant give Midway a decidedly budget vibe. That could have something to do with why the food options at Midway are pretty low bar.

That's not to say you won't find options here, provided you're pretty easy to please, but most of them are along the lines of Dunkin' Express, Einstein Bros. Bagels, or the handful of Farmer's Fridge vending machines containing salads and sandwiches on the go. If you're in the market for the simple reliability of a recognizable burger chain, you're not going to find it. As one commenter on Reddit put it, "100 trash restaurants is not better than one single solid restaurant, at least IMO. One McDonald's, Potbelly, or Chick-fil-A would immediately boost the quality of food options at Midway." The Points Guy echoed this, calling Midway "an extension of the Southwest ethos: It's bare-bones and nothing fancy," before advising Midway travelers to pack their lunch.

Even worse, there's no guarantee that what is available at Midway will actually be open, with travelers frequently reporting closed-up storefronts. Another Reddit user lamented, "Half the restaurants at MDW are either closed or not serving food due to labor shortage."

Beijing International Airport

Beijing is another spot veteran travelers say you don't want to get stuck with an empty belly and a long layover. The good news is that overall, the airport has a lot of American fast food staples — places like Pizza Hut, Starbucks, KFC, and McDonald's. But as one writer for The Beijinger highlighted in "The Mile S**** Club," they might not be what you're expecting, with online reviews of these joints often ranging from perplexed to bewildered. In a thread on Sleeping in Airports, one user warned that you won't actually find chicken at the airport's KFC — just burgers and coffee.

Things seem to have further withered in the post-pandemic years, with someone on Reddit warning, "Beijing's airport food is terrible — especially Post covid." Aside from those options, you can expect to shell out a pretty penny for your meal. One Tripadvisor user warned, "Food is expensive and hot. Try to avoid eating in the airport if you have a choice. Not worth it."

Dublin Airport

The food selection at Dublin Airport is something of an international unifier, with folks from all over the world gleefully taking to Reddit and Tripadvisor to drag this landing spot for its terrible fare. Many reviewers lament that eating there can feel like playing a game of roulette with one's health. And anything that isn't a potential vector is low-quality food with a high-dollar price tag slapped on it. Voicing a common opinion on Reddit, one traveler complained that the airport's burger joint "will probably be where the next global pandemic originates from." But the alternative, they add, is an adjacent "pub/restaurant that charges about 20 quid for some toast and a coffee."

As the burger spot is one of the airport's more affordable options, getting a bite there is also something of a challenge. As another unhappy customer on Reddit observed, "You'd spend longer queuing there than getting on the plane." And it's not hard to see why, judging by the airport's other restaurant reviews — particularly those of Terminal 2. A Tripadvisor user warned of "pre-prepared breakfasts" that are "served semi-warm in a cardboard dog bowl with a fried egg stuck to the bottom and everything dumped on top" while calling the terminal a "faux Street Food 'eatery.' " Other reviewers on Tripadvisor recalled "filthy" tables, overpriced tea, and eggs that were "still very much alive." Yikes.

Berlin Brandenburg Airport

In several Reddit threads breaking down some of the worst airports, Berlin Brandenburg was a common answer, with words like "disaster," "outdated," and "stinking hellhole" frequently used to describe it. And folks had some pretty specific thoughts, many touching on the generally poor quality of the airport's dining options. In a particularly granular dunking on the airport, a Reddit user called Berlin a "logistical failure" in terms of layout, signage, and overall use of space with "poor and second rate" culinary offerings. Another Reddit commenter vented, "who needs a shop that actually sells food or water and is still open for the time of most evening flights?"

The biggest issue with Brandenburg seems to be the general lack of internationally recognizable fast food options. Instead, as yet another Reddit user complains, you'll find a "Half microwaved chicken sandwich that's cold in the middle for €8, mmm." Another point of contention is that once guests make it up the one-way escalator to the airport's notably small food court, they will have to walk back down the stairs. As a traveler on Reddit joked, "Their trick is to trap you in the food court by having only an upward escalator."

LaGuardia Airport

The smaller of New York City's three airports, LaGuardia is naturally going to have fewer amenities than its counterparts, which can translate to poor food selection and borderline Kafkaesque pricing. Anyone who has spent much time in NYC will likely be unsurprised that food pricing is a common complaint among LaGuardia visitors. But $25 burgers can be pretty shocking to anyone who hasn't been forewarned to expect amusement park pricing. And unlike the meals you get at a Disney theme park, many Reddit users warn that the food at LaGuardia is hardly worth the price of admission. Expressing a popular opinion on one Reddit forum, a user teased, "Don't worry, food in LGA is as appetizing as it is affordable!"

But if you end up at the wrong terminal, you might find yourself wishing for overpriced, unappetizing burgers. In another Reddit thread, one commenter complained of finding "literally no food except for a fridge with premade sandwiches." And they're hardly cheap — think nine bucks for a sloppy PBJ your fourth-grade self would have been disappointed to find in your lunchbox. And then there's the QR code ordering system many restaurants have, causing one Reddit user to desperately query, "Do I have a server! Not sure."

Charlotte Douglas International

Going strictly off the recollections of its survivors, a visit to Charlotte Douglas International Airport is a level of torture ripped straight from a Poe novel. When it comes up in online threads, words like "ill-planned," "disgusting," and "s*** show" tend to get tossed around. According to online reviews, the food here isn't necessarily terrible. But Charlotte veterans say the chaotic nature of the airport, long lines, and overpriced restaurants make it something of a massive headache.

In a succinct summary of the food quality you can expect at Charlotte, one Reddit diner concluded, "It's not the best, but not the worst." Whether you'll actually have time to eat there depends on how long your layover is — and you might not have as much time as you think. Pondering whether they could eat during an hour-and-a-half layover, a Reddit user concluded, "No, you will get some chips and a drink at the news stand because they have a food vendor capacity which is at least two times too small for the amount of travelers in the Charlotte airport." Hey, but at least there's a Burger King. 

Orlando International Airport

Even without getting into the airport food side of things, Orlando International Airport is a pretty intense experience — one that's notorious for purgatory-level security lines, even for folks with pre-checks. A Reddit commenter aptly described the airport as "a giant room with no signs and random lines running every angle but you have no idea what the line is for," with others recounting tales of how they only narrowly caught their flight despite showing up several hours ahead of departure. So it should come as little surprise that the airport is not high on the list of places most folks would intentionally choose to eat at.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a thread discussing this airport without horror stories — descriptions of flea-infested airport carpet, screaming children, and a restaurant where getting served seems nigh unattainable. Perhaps no one has summed up the experience of "dining" at Orlando International than this Reddit traveler, who described the airport as "the 9th layer of hell." Recounting her Orlando airport food trauma, the user wrote that she was asked to sit with another party at the airport's Mexican restaurant. Clearly unwilling to hang out with a group of Disney-addled strangers, she opted for the only other dining option around at the time, a place she described as "a market with expired tuna sandwiches."

Kansas City International

Kansas City International is one of those airports that has put forth a pretty sizable effort into upgrading the quality of their food offerings, with more than 30 available restaurants to choose from by mid-2023. And falling in line with the latest airport food trend, a decent chunk of these restaurants are intended to present local fare. But as is often the case with this new model, something significant keeps getting lost in translation.

Recounting his excitement to grab a Bo Lings egg roll after a recent flight, a user on Reddit wrote, "It was definitely not Boling's eggrolls," calling the experience "Disappointing." Other users chimed in that, once again, this is because the airport is licensing the Bo Lings intellectual property, but the company managing this franchise likely uses different products and recipes. And judging by the reviews, there's a good chance this franchise prioritizes prices and profits over the desire to produce high-quality local food. A Kansas City Mag food writer arrived at similar observations but noted how far the airport had come. Given the airport's former reputation as having some of the worst airport food in the United States, it's hard not to agree with the writer's conclusion that "Despite a few disappointments, all the local options are still better than stopping at the Cinnabon."

Nashville International

Nashville International has received plenty of media attention for its extensive renovations, and part of the airport's new digs is an expanded selection of restaurant offerings, including some local spots like Kitty Hawk and Acme Feed and Seed. Yet that detailed upgrade still isn't enough to renovate the airport's reputation for weak food offerings.

The problem, critics say, is that the airport iterations of Nashville's local cuisine are really just watered-down versions of the real deal. In a lengthy Reddit post breaking down their issues with the airport concessions, one particularly disgruntled diner went into detail on some of the restaurants' failings. While praising the new airport renovations for its cleanliness and attractiveness, the user lamented that "with all the high profile 'Nashville' restaurants in the airport the quality of food is terrible and nothing like the brick and mortar establishments." Calling out Hattie B's, Party Fowl, Pharmacy Burger, Tailgate Pizza, Slim and Husky's, and 400 Degrees by name, the user complained that these spots are misrepresenting Nashville's culinary culture.

Other Reddit users in the same thread complained of unreasonably long wait times and poor overall food quality while throwing around phrases like "comically terrible" and "moldy food." Others surmised the quality issue boiled down to the restaurants sharing only their names and branding with local restaurants. As one commenter posited, "None of the locations in the airport are owned by the establishments. They are all franchises run by either Delaware North or HMS Host."

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International

For gourmands and connoisseurs, there are few better spots in the United States to travel through than New Orleans — home of culinary delights such as crawfish étouffée, gumbo, muffuletta, crawfish, fried gator, and beignets. Eating until you can neat no more is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in NOLA. But once again, it seems like the airport versions of these local specialties just don't stack up to the authentic experience of dining in the city. While Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans doesn't get tanked across the board on food quality like some airports, many travelers find its lack of options frustrating. And among those available, many are middling or downright disappointing in quality.

Take the airport version of Angelo Brocato, a New Orleans staple gelato and Sicilian bakery that has been around since the turn of the 20th century. A clearly disappointed Reddit user called the airport Brocato "obviously run by some type of unrelated management corp" before concluding, "In general the local restaurants with airport versions are sad." In a different Reddit thread, another commenter panned the pho at MoPho, calling it "trash." And echoing the overarching sentiment, one Skytrax reviewer wrote, "The restaurants and shops are like mall kiosks." But unlike some airports, MSY does contain a few gems that are worth stopping in if you find them. The consensus seems to be that the best among them are Folse Market, Munch's, and Dook's Burger.

How we created our list

To find out which airlines are the worst of the worst when the dinner hour strikes, we wanted to see what folks were saying deep in the cobwebby corners of the Internet. We checked Reddit first, followed by Tripadvisor and Yelp to unearth the hot goss on bad food, closed stores, terrible options, and long lines. And these fine folks did not disappoint as they willingly shared their mealtime travel trauma tea. While most airports have a few naysayers since you just can't please everyone, there are a few that kept coming up again and again in the comments. Once we started to see culinary red flags across multiple sites, we turned to the blogging and YouTube community to get an even fuller picture. The verdict is in, and the sentence is an afternoon of melancholic mealtime mediocrity followed by mid-flight regret. It's yet another reminder to never travel without emergency airplane snacks.