Not every airport has to be a stressful and chaotic experience. You shouldn’t have to stand in long lines just to go deep into your budget for an overpriced bland meal and maybe end up running out your door.
While some people rightfully hate airports, NerdWallet has put together a collection of nine US airports that are fun to spend time in. Some are like a cozy coffee shop, while others have retro vibes harking back to the golden days of aviation. These airports were chosen for a number of reasons, some of which may include unbeatable views, unique services, charming atmosphere, or a combination of all.
But NerdWallet also included key details that can affect the airport experience, including the on-time arrival rate, based on data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics between February 2022 and February 2023. For comparison, the arrival rate The national average time is 76.98%.
To qualify for this list, airports also had to have fewer than 1.5 million arriving passengers in 2022. To put that into perspective, the largest airport in the United States by arriving passengers, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, had more of 37 million passengers arriving in 2022.
The data is ordered by the number of passengers arriving in 2022, also based on the BTS data, from highest to lowest.
9. Long Beach Airport
(Photo courtesy of Long Beach Airport)
long beach california
On-time arrival rate: 78.9%.
Total 2022 passengers (departing): 1.3 million.
Total 2022 passengers (arrival): 1.3 million.
Airlines served: Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, Southwest Airlines.
Long Beach Airport is the oldest airport in California, and it still largely maintained the art deco style there when it was built in 1941. Today, the cutting-edge piece of architecture is a recognized historical landmark. And while many of the original features have been retained, such as a mosaic masterpiece incorporating more than a million hand-cut tiles, there are modern touches as well.
A large outdoor space after security allows you to take advantage of the Southern California sun before departure. Most of the restaurants are an extension of the local Long Beach food scene, like Airport Outpost Sweet Jill’s Bakery, famous for its cinnamon rolls.
8. Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport
On-time arrival rate: 78.2%.
Total 2022 passengers (departing): 981,807.
Total 2022 passengers (arrival): 970,728.
Airlines served: Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Avelo Airlines, Delta, JetBlue Airways, Southwest, Sun Country Airlines, and United Airlines.
Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport has a cozy mountain atmosphere, designed with natural wood and stone. Gaze at the roaring fireplace inside or take in the picturesque mountain views outside.
7. Asheville Regional Airport
Fletcher, North Carolina
On-time arrival rate: 77.23%.
Total 2022 passengers (departing): 756,726.
Total 2022 passengers (arrival): 761,652.
Airlines served: Allegiant, American, Delta, JetBlue, Sun Country and United.
Asheville is known for its vibrant arts scene, and that extends to the Asheville Regional Airport. Inside, you might hear a concert pianist playing the airport grand piano or a live musical performance by local schools, choral groups or folk musicians. There’s also an art gallery with rotating exhibits of curated artwork by local artists.
Though small, the airport is growing: the airport says it saw a 29% increase in 2,022 passengers over 2021, with 2022 marking the most passengers served in a year for the airport.
6. Santa Barbara Municipal Airport
(Photo by Sally French)
Santa Barbara, California
On-time arrival rate: 78.9%.
Total 2022 passengers (departing): 505,104.
Total 2022 passengers (arrival): 503,645.
Airlines served: Alaska, America, Southwest and United States.
Santa Barbara Municipal Airport is decorated with colorful Mediterranean-style tiles, rustic lanterns, modern art, and beautiful Spanish murals, reflecting the distinctive architecture of the entire city. There’s also a small outdoor seating area for plane-watching and enjoying the scenery of local plants including purple sage, magenta bougainvillea, and lemon trees.
The airport is growing, having “experienced a faster-than-expected operational recovery” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an airport statement. Much of that was spurred by the addition of Southwest, which began service in Santa Barbara in 2021 with routes including Las Vegas and Denver.
The airport also has a mini-museum on Santa Barbara’s aviation history, including photos of actor James Dean driving a 356 Speedster race car, as his last race was at the airport.
5. Jackson Hole Airport
On-time arrival rate: 78.4%.
Total 2022 passengers (departing): 351,977.
Total 2022 passengers (arrival): 338,015.
Airlines served: Alaska, America, Delta, Sun Country and United.
Located within Grand Teton National Park at the base of the Teton Range, Jackson Hole Airport has spectacular views.
The airport offers standard amenities like a restaurant, market, and gift shop, but there’s something particularly charming here: the Teton County Library bookshelf. You can take a book with you or leave a book for the next visitor.
Cozy up by the fireplace or recline on one of the brand’s wooden benches, which have represented Jackson Hole ranching families for generations.
4. Cherry Capital Airport
Traverse City, Michigan
On-time arrival rate: 79.8%.
Total 2022 passengers (departing): 254,263.
Total 2022 passengers (arrival): 250,777.
Airlines served: Allegiant, American, Delta, JetBlue and United.
The architecture and design of Cherry Capital Airport is inspired by the works of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, with details such as copper light fixtures, stone wainscoting, and stained glass windows. The welcome area, complete with a stone fireplace, feels more like a hostel than an airport.
3. Ketchikan International Airport
On-time arrival rate: 80.1%.
Total 2022 passengers (departing): 125,641.
Total 2022 passengers (arrival): 125,994.
Airlines served: Alaska.
To get to and from the airport and the actual city of Ketchikan, you’ll likely end up hopping on a ferry. The five-minute ride over the water adds to the enchanting experience of Ketchikan International Airport, located on Gravina Island.
2. Martha’s Vineyard Airport
(Photo courtesy of Tim Johnson, Martha’s Vineyard Airport)
West of Tisbury, Massachusetts
On-time arrival rate: 76.7%.
Total 2022 passengers (departing): 66,698.
Total 2022 passengers (arrival): 67,464.
Airlines served: American, Cape Air, Delta and JetBlue.
The airport terminal is built in the same Cape Cod style found throughout the island of Martha’s Vineyard, right down to its cedar shingles. Look out the window as you take off and land for aerial views of the island’s beaches and lighthouses.
It is centrally located in the middle of the 100 square mile island. And for those staying in Edgartown, you can even take the bus, as it’s only a three-minute ride to the classic New England port town.
1. Branson Airport
(Photo courtesy of Branson Airport)
On-time arrival rate: 61.7%.
Total 2022 passengers (departing): 5,999.
Total 2022 passengers (arrival): 6,016.
Airlines served: Country of the Sun.
Located in the heart of the Ozark Mountains, Branson Airport captures the broader spirit of Branson, known for its live entertainment, lakes, museums, and historic downtown. The airport has a Wild West vibe, with saloon and sawmill facades, plus a real creek inside.
If you have time before going through security, you can eat at the Branson Jet Center, which offers dining on an outdoor patio next to a green. And while Bass Pro Shops is generally known for its enormous size, there is also a relatively small Bass Pro Shops general store inside the airport.
(Top photo courtesy of Blake Bronstad, Santa Barbara Airport)
America’s Most Charming Airports article 9 originally appeared on NerdWallet.