Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

Where Are The Most Stressful Airports In The World — and In the United States?

Stressing the stress is more than stressful enough.

Some people might argue that the most stressful part of travel is the airport itself, which can be noisy, crowded, uncomfortable, expensive, and inconvenient — parking can be virtually impossible during holidays and flights can be delayed or canceled as two of many examples — not to mention being processed through the long lines of the security checkpoint and having to comply with numerous restrictions and regulations…

Where Are The Most Stressful Airports In The World — and In the United States?

…but where are the most stressful airports in the world — as well as in the United States — located?

To find out the answer to that question, the profile for the international airports in every country were found on Google Maps. Only countries with greater than two airports — as well as airports with greater than 1,500 Google Maps reviews — were considered. The airports within a country were also filtered, thereby keeping only the top ten airports for every country based on the number of reviews — except for the United States and United Kingdom.

To analyze the reviews, a stress analysis tool that scores the stress level of a text from a range of 5 to -5 was used. A review was considered to be stressed if its resulting score was -2 or lesser. Reviews without any text and which were not in English — either in their original language or automatically translated by Google — were filtered.

Note: Although Wilmington Airport in Delaware restarted commercial activity in 2021, it was not included in the list because the operations are very limited and incomparable with airport hubs.

This article from HawaiianIslands.com gives more details about the most stressful airports in the world — as well as in the United States — and I have been given express written permission to use the graphs and the verbatim text from the aforementioned article in this article. While Hawaiianislands.com has endeavored to ensure the information provided is accurate and current, it cannot guarantee it, as this information is general in nature only and does not constitute personal advice. Neither Hawaiianislands.com nor The Gate accept any liability — and assume no responsibility — for any and all information which is presented in this article.

With that disclaimer out of the way, here is the article.

The Most Stressful Airports In The World — and In the United States

Delays, long lines, and crying babies. There are many reasons that air travel can be stressful – and that’s all before you add in turbulence, baggage claim, and paying extortionate prices for a beverage on the flight.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, air passenger traffic fell 60%, resulting in billions of dollars in losses for the industry, layoffs, and labor shortages. As air travel rebounds, now-understaffed airports are overwhelmed by the increased passenger volumes, struggling to process the influx of travelers with skeleton crews. As a result, many of the things travelers hate about flying have been made even worse, which means more delays, longer lines, more crying babies – and crying adults.

While increased travel demand has made flying more stressful no matter where you are headed to or from, some airports are simply more stressful than others. HawaiianIslands.com wanted to find out which airports around the world people found the most stressful. So whether you’re a seasoned pro traveler or are heading away for the first time, read on to find out which airports might be worth avoiding if you want a stress-free vacation.

What We Did

To determine the most stressful airports in America and the world, Hawaiian Islands analyzed over 1,500 Google reviews for over 500 airports around the world. We analyzed the sentiment of Google reviews and ranked airports around the world and within the United States based on the percentage of reviews that indicate stress.

Key Findings

  • The most stressful airport in the world is UK’s Manchester Airport, with 82.5% of reviews indicating stress.
  • Nine of the 10 most stressful airports overall are in Europe, four of which are UK airports.
  • The most stressful airport in North America also has the worst delays. At Toronto Pearson International Airport, 52.5% of all flights were delayed between May 26 and July 19, 2022 – the most of any airport worldwide.
  • Egypt is home to five of the 10 most stressful airports in Africa.
  • Surprisingly, the busiest airports are not necessarily the most stressful.

UK’s Manchester Airport Is the Most Stressful In the World

Manchester is the UK’s third largest airport after London Heathrow and Gatwick, with 29.4 million annual passengers. That’s a whole lot of people traveling from one place to another. According to sentiment analysis from TensiStrength, 82.5% of reviews for Manchester Airport indicate stress, making it the most stressful airport in the world.

Many of the millions of passengers traveling through Manchester may feel stressed from the recent staff shortages and long lines. Some of the most common terms that crop up in reviews include “embarrassment,” “shortages,” “queuing,” “farce,” and “jobsworth.” In April 2022, Manchester Airport apologized to customers for long security queues, blaming the inconvenience on growing passenger demand in the wake of the pandemic.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged version. Source: HawaiianIslands.com.

While heavy passenger traffic can create long queues and other issues, the busiest airports in the world are not necessarily the most stressful. The 20 busiest airports by passenger traffic, for example, all rank outside the top 25 most stressful airports, according to our analysis. The one busy airport that does rank as particularly stressful is Amsterdam Schiphol in the Netherlands. The Dutch travel hub processes roughly 25 million passengers annually, making it the 34th busiest airport worldwide. According to sentiment analysis, 70.8% of reviews for Amsterdam Schiphol indicate stress, the 10th most of any airport.

The Busiest U.S. Airports Are Not Necessarily the Most Stressful

While JFK in New York is one of the busiest airports in the world, the most stressful airport in New York — and the United States — is in Albany. According to sentiment analysis from TensiStrength, 70.2% of Google reviews for Albany International Airport indicate stress — the most of any airport in the country. Reviewers commonly warn fellow travelers to fly using JFK or LaGuardia if they have the option. Others frequently complain about rude or unhelpful employees.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged version. Source: HawaiianIslands.com.

Similarly, in California, the busiest airport is not the most stressful. 68.9% of reviews for Oakland International Airport indicate stress, more than the 61.7% of stressed-out reviews for LAX, making it the most of any airport in California. Customers commonly complain about the inefficient management of baggage claim and poor security.

Brexit May Be Creating Shortages and Causing Stress in UK Airports

According to sentiment analysis from TensiStrength, 82.5% of reviews for Manchester Airport in the UK indicate stress, the most of any airport in both Europe and the world. One of the most commonly cited phrases in negative reviews for Manchester Airport is “Brexit,” which several leaders in the airline industry have blamed for increased airport chaos.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged version. Source: HawaiianIslands.com.

In one 2019 address, CEO of Ryanair Michael O’Leary blamed a recent increase in flight delays and cancellations on Brexit, citing that the process has been an “abject failure” that resulted in labor shortages in airports. In 2022, a managing director of the Aviation Recruitment Network explained that UK airports have difficulty recruiting individuals from Europe in the wake of Brexit. While not all industry officials agree that Brexit is to blame for increased travel issues in the region, seven of the 20 most stressful airports in Europe are located in the United Kingdom.

Toronto Pearson Is the Most Stressful Airport in North America

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2020, Toronto Pearson was the second-busiest international air passenger gateway in the Americas (second only to JFK Airport in New York) and the 30th-busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic.

According to sentiment analysis from TensiStrength, 76.0% of reviews for Toronto Pearson International airport indicate stress, the most of any airport in North America. Some of the most commonly cited phrases in negative reviews include “customs,” “immigration,” “layover,” “embarrassment,” and “lost luggage.”

Click on the graphic for an enlarged version. Source: HawaiianIslands.com.

According to data from FlightAware compiled by CNN Travel, 52.5% of flights scheduled between May 26 and July 19, 2022, at Toronto Pearson were delayed. In response to the increased chaos, Air Canada, the airport’s largest carrier, reduced its summer schedule and began to offer fee-free ticket changes targeted at the “longer than usual delays” at Toronto Pearson.

Colombia Is Home to the Most Stressful Airport in South America

Over half (59.4%) of reviews for Gustavo Rojas Pinilla International Airport in the archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina, Colombia, indicate stress, the most of any airport in South America.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged version. Source: HawaiianIslands.com.

Among negative reviews, the most commonly cited terms include “biosecurity” and “political corruption.” Many frustrated reviewers believe the airport has poor biosecurity measures relative to the high amount of tourism traffic flowing into the airport and that the airport’s poor maintenance and low investment from the government must be the result of political corruption.

Long Customs Lines Make Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen the Most Stressful Airport in the Middle East and Central Asia

Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen International Airport processes some 25 million passengers a year, making it one of the busiest airports in the Middle East and Central Asia. Heavy passenger traffic may be one reason why 62.6% of Google reviews of Sabiha Gökçen indicate stress, the most of any airport in the region.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged version. Source: HawaiianIslands.com.

One of the most commonly cited negative aspects of the airport is the “passport control,” with several passengers reporting having spent over two hours in line at customs after taking an international flight to Sabiha Gökçen. In addition to long queues, many complain that the airport has no free Wi-Fi.

Long Delays May Make Sydney the Most Stressful Airport in Oceania

According to data from FlightAware compiled by CNN Travel, 34.2% of flights scheduled between May 26 and July 19, 2022, at Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport were delayed – the ninth most of any airport in the world. Extreme delays may be one reason why 59.0% of Google reviews for Sydney Airport indicate stress – the second most of any airport in Southeast Asia and Oceania.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged version. Source: HawaiianIslands.com.

Reviewers of this airport gripe most often about poor signage, the surcharge for public transit to and from the airport, added airport taxes, and the airport curfew. Besides Sydney, the most stressful airport in the region is Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Vietnam, with 60.1% of reviews indicating stress.

Egypt Is Home to 5 of the 20 Most Stressful Airports in Africa

Olivier Ponti, Vice President of Insights at travel industry trends analyst ForwardKeys, revealed that Egypt was in the top five percent of destinations experiencing the most flight cancellations from the UK in 2022 so far. In addition to this, travelers flying to or from Egyptian airports most often complain about the staff soliciting tips, having to remove their shoes and walk around barefoot during security checks, and long queues.

This could explain why 63.4% of reviews for Sharm El Sheikh International Airport airport indicate stress, the most of any airport in Africa.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged version. Source: HawaiianIslands.com.

Similarly, 61.9% of reviews of Hurghada International Airport in Egypt indicate stress, the second most of any airport in Africa. Most reviewers complain about bullying from staff and being forced to remove their shoes. Egypt is home to 5 of the 20 most stressful airports in Europe.

American Airports Are Less Stressful Than European Airports

From October 2015 to February 2018, there were 181 complaints submitted to the TSA alleging civil rights and civil liberties violations at Los Angeles International Airport, the most of any airport. Civil rights violations may be one reason why 61.7% of Google reviews for LAX indicate stress – the eighth most of any airport in the United States. Other high-stress airports with significant numbers of civil rights complaints include JFK in New York, Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta, and O’Hare in Chicago.

While strict security measures may make American airports particularly stressful, travelers tend to feel more stressed when traveling in other parts of the world. The most stressful airports in the world are mostly in Europe, with more than one in four reviews indicating stress in airports in the UK, Greece, and France. Click through the table below to explore the most stressful airports in America and the world.

More Stress, More Unruly Passengers

Even at the best of times, travel can be stressful. Adding higher fares, longer lines, and more delays to an already stressful environment can lead to unhealthy levels of stress and – in some cases – violent outbursts. In 2021, 1,099 incidents of unruly passengers merited investigation by the FAA – more than the entirety of unruly passenger incidents in the eight years from 2013 to 2020 combined. Refusal to comply with safety instructions is a growing concern for the entire travel community and makes airport stress an important public health issue. So while some travel hubs are unavoidable, it may be helpful to know before your next flight – are the most stressful airports in the world on your itinerary?

Final Boarding Call

I had been to Albany International Airport years ago on a business trip — but I do not recall the experience being either stressful or memorable. In my opinion, the major international airports in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago still win as the most unnecessarily stressful airports in the United States.

Access to a lounge at the airport can help minimize the stress — but not always, as some of them can be overcrowded and expensive while offering mediocre food and little else in return.

The best way to reduce stress at an airport — and, probably, for travel in general — is to be fully prepared for the worst while hoping for the best. Unless I am in a lounge, I rarely eat at an airport; and I try to occupy my time while waiting for my flight. I used to arrive at the airport just in time to board the airplane before departure — but with the security checkpoints being unpredictable these days, I leave myself enough time in case of unexpected delays.

What do you do to reduce your stress at an airport? Please share your experiences in the Comments section below.

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

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