Which airport should I choose?
When flying into cities with multiple airports, weigh the options before booking that flight.
Traveling to a city with more than one public airport means more options – but also more questions. The decision about which airport to fly into when visiting Chicago, New York City or Washington, D.C., and other cities can be dependent on several key factors: which airlines use which facilities, your travel dates and times of day, as well as what part of the city you’ll be visiting.
Here’s a rundown of major cities with multiple airports, to help you out the next time you travel.
The Windy City has two airports: Midway International Airport (MDW) southwest of downtown and O’Hare International Airport (ORD) northwest of downtown. Midway is a major hub for Southwest Airlines, so if you’re flying this popular low-cost carrier, know that you won’t be able to fly into O’Hare. On the other hand, O’Hare is home to many major airlines, and it’s a major international hub. Downtown Chicago is easily accessible from both airports via the rapid transit line, or “L” system, using the orange line from Midway or the blue line from O’Hare. Or you can easily hail a taxi or call an Uber or Lyft to get you from the airport to your destination.
As with Chicago, travelers flying to Houston can’t always pick which airport they want to fly into. Southwest only flies to William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), the smaller of the two airports. Most airlines fly to George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH); being the bigger airport, it’s also home to more dining and shopping options. In fact, Huffington Post in 2016 called the American Express Centurion Lounge at IAH’s Terminal D one of the best airport lounges in the world, specifically citing its food offerings. IAH has won other accolades for its various lounges, amenities and food and beverages choices, too. However, IAH is about 26 miles north of downtown Houston, while Hobby is about 7 miles south. Travelers can choose multiple types of transportation from either airport, including SuperShuttle service, the Houston city bus service, taxis, Uber and Lyft services.
New York City
Visitors to the Big Apple have three choices for nearby public airports: John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and LaGuardia Airport (LGA) are both located in the Queens borough of New York City, while Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) is just across the river in New Jersey. Choose your airport carefully based on your specific destination in the area, as it’s easier to get to different parts of the city during specific times of day from each airport. Newark airport, for example, is well located for those visiting Lower Manhattan. Need a rundown? Check out this helpful article from CNN to make the best choice for your next trip. Travelers should also be aware that LaGuardia is undergoing a massive, multiyear reconstruction that has already shifted multiple airlines into different terminals and has created more than the usual gridlock at the airport. On the other hand, the overhaul should improve LaGuardia’s reputation as a shabby, out-of-date facility. Many transportation options exist for all three airports, although public transportation from LaGuardia involves more machinations and hassles, making taxis, Uber or Lyft rides a more convenient way to go.
As with New York, travelers to Washington, D.C., technically have three options, with Dulles International Airport (IAD), Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) and Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI). Reagan is by far the closest to downtown D.C. and home to many domestic carriers, like Southwest, United, Delta and American, but it can also be a bit pricier than Dulles or BWI. Although once you factor in the cost of a Metro ticket versus a ride share or train ticket (from BWI), the difference might not seem as grand. As the bigger airport, Dulles has the better shopping and food selection (BWI has a decent selection as well).
Another major U.S. hub, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is full of first-class amenities and traffic headaches. While it might be a traffic nightmare, LAX is closest to west side cities, like Venice, Santa Monica and Brentwood, as well as Beverly Hills. The other airport option, Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR) is about 12 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, making it a quick trip if that’s your destination. While BUR is a lot smaller than LAX, it’s still served by many major airlines, including American, Delta, JetBlue and Southwest. Many travel writers and frequent fliers to Los Angeles report that they always choose BUR over LAX when possible, regardless of cost, because of the notorious congestion in and around the bigger airport.
Before planning a trip to any of these cities, keep in mind these considerations about where to fly to make getting to your destination even easier.