The Best and Worst U.S. Airports of 2019 – By Scott McCartney Updated Nov. 13, 2019 11:21 am ET

The WSJ Airport Rankings expand to measure how the 40 largest airports in the country stack up


Maybe friendly really is as good as it gets when it comes to airports.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, which bills itself as America’s friendliest airport, scored best among the 20 largest U.S. airports in this year’s Wall Street Journal airport rankings.

We also decided this year to rank the 20 largest airports after that—let’s call them medium-size. We split them into two categories because large hubs really have different challenges.

Tampa International Airport ranked slightly higher than Portland International Airport in Oregon. Both have strong followings among frequent travelers for their ease of use and amenities.

The Best and Worst U.S. Airports

WSJ’s Scott McCartney released this year’s list ranking the country’s 20 largest airports. After looking at 15 metrics related to operations, value and convenience, the list has a new No. 1. Photo: Steve Craft for The Wall Street Journal

The Best and Worst U.S. Airports
WSJ’s Scott McCartney released this year’s list ranking the country’s 20 largest airports. After looking at 15 metrics related to operations, value and convenience, the list has a new No. 1. Photo: Steve Craft for The Wall Street Journal

At the bottom of the rankings in both size categories: anything close to New York. New York Kennedy and Newark Liberty placed 19th and 20th, respectively, in the large airport category. New York LaGuardia scored lowest in the medium-size category.

The WSJ ranked airports by five measures of operations, such as on-time arrivals, five measures of value, such as average fare, and five measures of convenience, including a grade from readers. More than 2,500 subscribers answered a detailed questionnaire covering a dozen categories of likes and dislikes at airports they’ve used within the past two years.

(See the WSJ’s Airport Rankings and a full explanation of the methodology.)

It says something about the state of airports in the U.S. that the highest WSJ reader score was only a B, with Detroit Metro’s score the highest among large airports. Six got C grades or lower. The average GPA: C+.

Phoenix excelled in several of the 15 categories, with short screening waits, fast Wi-Fi, good Yelp scores for restaurant reviews, short taxi-to-takeoff times for planes and cheap average Uber cost to get downtown. It also scored well among Wall Street Journal readers.

‘Until the light rail opens a stop to the car rental center, allow plenty of time—it’s far away.’
‘Take the Skytrain away from the airport and have someone pick you up there.’
‘Easy to get lost trying to find which terminal and airline you want. Traffic and signage is a problem.’
‘Learn North/South curbs, especially if getting picked up by family/friends.’
‘If connecting, the walk can be very long.  Use the provided shuttle service.’
Sky Harbor overtook Denver, last year’s winner, largely on the Phoenix airport’s improved average Yelp rating for restaurants and an investment in

WSJ’s Scott McCartney released this year’s list ranking the country’s 20 largest airports. After looking at 15 metrics related to operations, value and convenience, the list has a new No. 1. Photo: Steve Craft for The Wall Street Journaled last year, according to testing service Ookla. Denver also suffered many more operations problems in the past 12 months. Phoenix finished third overall last year, also trailing Orlando.

Sky Harbor focuses on making a big airport—an inherently stressful and impersonal place—more pleasant, says James Bennett, director of aviation services for the city of Phoenix. The airport even started stationing therapy dogs in terminals in 2017, working with volunteers who give directions.

By branding itself as America’s friendliest airport, Mr. Bennett says Sky Harbor began taking more ownership of the customer experience. In the past, airports often just leased space to airlines and let airlines rule the roost, even though airlines usually just wanted cheap places to load and unload passengers and luggage.

“We want to try to make sure that that passenger experience is as painless as possible,” he says.

Sky Harbor airport bills itself as America’s friendliest airport. To prove the point, the airport has trained therapy dogs patrol terminals with volunteers to calm harried travelers. PHOTO: STEVE CRAFT FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Competition is such that an airport can win while still being mediocre in several categories. Phoenix ranked 19th in the number of nonstop cities served among the 20 largest airports—it lacks lots of international service. A hub for American, it’s in the middle of the pack in terms of average fare and 15th in terms of the longest walk from the curb to the farthest gate.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is in the midst of a massive $24 billion rebuilding program at LaGuardia, JFK and Newark. Improvements have already started coming online, especially at LaGuardia, where one-third of the gates in use are new. But with that has come even more hassle for travelers with construction inconvenience mixed in with record-high passenger traffic.

“We know we have a very, very long way to go,” says Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority. “With new facilities and a renewed emphasis on customer and passenger experience, we can move from back of the pack to first class.”

Detroit was the favorite among readers without the analytical data. Detroit tied for third overall with Fort Lauderdale, Fla., among large airports when analytical data was included.

Tampa finished best among medium-size airports without ranking first in any of the 15 categories. Its lowest scores came in operations. Over the 12-month period ending July 31, only 78% of flights arrived on-time in Tampa, ranking 17th. The airport’s cancellation rate was high enough to rank it No. 13.`

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Monopolies cost Americans $300 a month. We’re no longer the land of free markets Thomas Philippon Wed 13 Nov 2019 02.00 EST

In a reversal from a few decades ago, American consumers are facing oligopolies while Europeans benefit from competition

google office
‘A pro-competition policy would need to tackle the new monopolies as well as the old ones – the Googles and Facebooks and the pharmaceutical and telecom companies alike.’ Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

When I landed in Boston in 1999, the United States was the land of free markets. Many goods and services were cheaper here than in Europe. Twenty years later, American free markets are becoming a myth. Internet service, cellphone plans, and plane tickets are now cheaper in Europe and Asia than in the US. In 2018, the average monthly cost of a broadband internet connection was $31 in France, $39 in the UK and $68 in the US. American households also spend twice as much on cellphone services as households in France or the UK.

This is a result of policy choices. In 1999, the US had free and competitive markets while European markets were dominated by oligopolies. The airline industry is a prime example. Over the past two decades a wave of mergers has turned the US airline industry into an oligopoly while Europe has opened its skies to competition, thanks in part to low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and EasyJet. US regulators allowed these mergers to happen without meaningful challenges. EU regulators, on the other hand, encouraged the entry of low-cost competitors by making sure they could get access to takeoff and landing slots.

There are many layers of irony in this historic reversal. One irony is that the free market ideas and business models that benefit European consumers today were inspired by US markets. Another irony is that some leftwing US politicians are now contemplating policies that most Europeans would find extreme. We do not think private health insurance companies should be abolished. We favor wealth taxes, but we do not think they are a cure for all ills.

The polarization of the political debate is partly the result of ignorance. The American left sees Europe as an El Dorado of free healthcare, free education and workers’ rights. The American right sees it as a socialistic nightmare with no growth and no innovation. They’re both wrong, and the result is misguided policies and time wasted tilting at windmills.

But we are also witnessing a justified backlash against the corruption of American free markets. A powerful system of lobbying and campaign finance contributions is largely responsible for the growing monopolization of the US economy.

Implementing a pro-competition policy in America will be no easy task. Incumbent companies maintain their power with an array of unfair tactics to exclude rivals – acquisitions of nascent competitors, heavy lobbying of regulators, and lavish expenditures on campaign donations. To be successful in today’s economy, a pro-competition policy would need to tackle the new monopolies as well as the old ones – the Googles and Facebooks and the pharmaceutical and telecom companies alike.

The payoffs would be large, however. Based on my research, I estimate that monopolies cost the median American household about $300 a month. Taking into account all the other inefficiencies monopolies entail, I estimate that the lack of competition deprives American workers of about $1.25tn of labor income every year. No wonder, then, that American workers are angry.

There is also another ironic lesson for Europe. The quality of existing European institutions is partly due to the beneficial influence of the UK. Historically France and Germany did not have a tradition of strong and independent regulators able to stand up to lobbyists and resist short term political pressures. The European Central Bank and the EU Directorate General for Competition (DG Comp) have demonstrated that they can. These institutions, while imperfect, are a public good that benefits all European citizens.

Brexit will have a significant impact on competition policy in Europe. When the UK leaves, the EU will need to keep its free market spirit alive. The UK, on the other hand, risks losing the competitive benefits of the single market. Many commentators view it only as a loss of market access, but this is just part of the story. Equally important, in my opinion, are the benefits of unfettered competition in protecting consumers, keeping domestic monopolies in check, and forcing regulators to stay ahead of the curve.

The final irony is that US policymakers are now looking to Europe for clues about modern market regulations. The same pundits who made fun of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) two years ago are now thinking about the best way to create its US equivalent and offer much-needed privacy protection to US consumers. Europe’s antitrust actions against big tech are no longer derided but carefully studied instead.

  • Thomas Philippon is the Max L Heine Professor of Finance at the Stern School of Business at New York University. He was named one of the top 25 economists under 45 by the IMF and won the Bernácer Prize for Best European Economist. He is the author of the new book The Great Reversal: How America Gave Up on Free Markets

Trump cared more about investigating Biden than Ukraine, key witness reveals Tom McCarthy – First published on Wed 13 Nov 2019 02.00 EST

Ambassador William Taylor (L) and deputy assistant secretary of state George Kent are sworn in at the impeachment hearing
Bill Taylor, left, and George Kent are sworn in at the impeachment hearing on 13 November. Photograph: Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump cared more about investigating his political rival Joe Biden than the fate of Ukraine, according to dramatic testimony from a key witness in the first impeachment inquiry hearing before the American public.

Less than a year before the president faces re-election, the House of Representatives began public hearings on Wednesday into allegations that Trump abused the power of his office.

As Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair, gaveled the House intelligence committee into session, cameras from every major network carried the proceedings to millions of Americans, some of whom were encountering the allegations against Trump for the first time.

In an opening statement, Schiff said the hearings would explore whether Trump sought to exploit Ukraine’s vulnerability, condition White House acts on Ukraine’s willingness to help his re-election, and “whether such an abuse of his power is compatible with the presidency”.

Schiff said: “The matter is as simple and as terrible as that. Our answer to these questions will affect not only the future of this presidency but the future of the presidency itself.”

Trump filled his Twitter account on Wednesday morning with video clips of his defenders attacking the proceedings. But in the hearing room, new testimony tied Trump directly to a plot to condition US military aid and a White House visit on a Ukrainian announcement of the Biden investigation.

Bill Taylor, the acting US ambassador to Ukraine, and George Kent, the state department deputy assistant secretary, were the first witnesses to be called. Taylor said one of his aides had heard Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU, talking to Trump on the phone in July.

Taylor said: “Following the phone call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland responded that Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which [Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy] Giuliani was pressing for.”

The opening of the public impeachment hearings was a day Trump has struggled furiously to prevent, blocking witnesses, attacking investigators and throwing up a social media smokescreen. Trump has claimed his push for investigations in Ukraine arose from his concern about corruption in the country.

“I’m too busy to watch it,” Trump told reporters about the hearings. “It’s a witch-hunt, it’s a hoax.”

The White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, tweeted that the hearings were “boring”.

Devin Nunes, the senior Republican on the committee, declared the proceedings a “low-rent Ukrainian sequel” to the Russia investigation and said “it’s nothing more than an impeachment process in search of a crime.”

Republicans sought to blunt the impact of the testimony by pointing out that the witnesses had not had direct conversations with Trump about his intentions. They also argued that in asking for investigations, Trump was pursuing a legitimate anti-corruption agenda in Ukraine. Democrats responded that Trump has not expressed any anti-corruption initiative not having to do with Biden.

Taylor said: “I am not here to take one side or the other, or to advocate for any particular outcome of these proceedings. My purpose is to provide the facts as I know them.”

Taylor described his concern to discover, last spring, an informal policy channel in Ukraine led by Giuliani, and advanced by US officials close to the White House, including Sondland.

Sondland told Taylor that he had told the Ukrainians that “everything” – military aid and a White House meeting for Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy – depended on Zelesnkiy’s willingness to announce an investigation of Biden, Trump’s political rival, Taylor testified.

With a half-century of foreign service experience between them, the witnesses described a US policy of supporting Ukraine as a frontline state against what they said was a Russian assault on the “rules-based order” in eastern Europe. For the newly elected Zelenskiy, Kent testified, a White House meeting would be crucial.

“A meeting with the US president in the Oval Office at the White House” would be seen, said Kent, “as the ultimate sign of endorsement and support from the United States”.

The US demand that Ukraine pursue politically motivated investigations, and the withholding of aid for Ukraine, undermined US efforts to promote the rule of law and threatened to give Russia a free hand in the region, the diplomats testified.

Taylor was asked what he meant when he said in a text message obtained by the committee that withholding security assistance for Ukraine to help a political campaign was “crazy”.

“To withhold that assistance for no good reason other than to help with a political campaign made no sense,” Taylor said. “It was counterproductive. It was illogical, it could not be explained, it was crazy.”

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Kentucky state Rep. Charles Booker. Photo: Courtesy of the Charles Booker campaign

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL faces a new 2020 threat, as Kentucky state Rep. Charles Booker announced the formation of an exploratory committee on Monday. McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is already being challenged by Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, who ran and lost a winnable race for a Lexington-area House seat in 2018.

In the Democratic primary, Booker, who backs progressive policies like a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and a living wage, plans to run as a contrast to McGrath, who is running more to the center or the center-right.

In a 2018 run for Congress, her opponent, Rep. Andy Barr, made devastating use of comments McGrath made at a private fundraiser in Boston, when she confided to wealthy liberals, “I am further left, I am more progressive, than anyone in the state of Kentucky.”

But she did not actually run as a progressive in 2018, and it isn’t how she’s running against McConnell. In launching her bid, she declared that McConnell’s biggest problem is that he has blocked President Donald Trump from accomplishing his agenda; she initially said that she would have supported Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, then backtracked when it was noted that she had said the opposite in 2018. She has lamented the push for Medicare for All and insisted she would oppose subsidizing health care “for illegal immigrants.” Whether she was lying to the Boston donors, or lying to her potential constituents, the comments at the fundraiser represent a likely fatal weakness in the general election, as McConnell can use the comments to show a fundamental political inauthenticity, much as Barr did.


Booker, meanwhile, plans to challenge McConnell as a member of the wealthy elite. He wants to raise taxes on “millionaires like McConnell,” as he puts it. “Since we sent Mitch McConnell to Washington, he’s become one of the richest politicians in America,” said Booker (McConnell came into a significant amount of his wealth through his marriage to Elaine Chao, Trump’s transportation secretary). “The more power Mitch McConnell has gained in DC, the more we’ve lost here at home.” McConnell’s case against 35-year-old Booker would come down to the question of whether the first-term state representative is too progressive for a state that leans heavily Republican in presidential cycles. Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 30 percentage points in Kentucky in 2016.

Last week, Democrat Andy Beshear knocked out the sitting Republican governor, Matt Bevin, giving the party hope that McConnell is vulnerable. But Republicans won every other statewide race — including flipping Beshear’s attorney general seat. Bevin was deeply unpopular, and a libertarian spoiler pulled nearly 30,000 votes, making the difference in the gubernatorial race.


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