The Worst Airports in the U.S. for Connecting Flights

FinanceBuzz looked at how long it takes to walk terminals end to end at dozens of America’s busiest airports to find out which ones are the best and worst for flight changes.

A mostly unseen person stands in front of a flight board in an airport, with one hand holding onto the handle of their suitcase.
Updated May 13, 2024
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There aren't many things more stressful than trying to make a connecting flight on a tight deadline, especially if your connecting gate is across the terminal — or worse, across the airport.

So what are the worst places to get stuck with a tight connection? Our team looked at airport maps and measured distances between gates at 50 of the busiest airports in the country to find out where you’ll have a better (or worse) chance at making your next flight.

In this article

Key findings

  • Denver International Airport (DEN) is the worst airport in the U.S. to have a connecting flight in.
    • Richmond International Airport (RIC) is the best.
  • Worst-case scenario: LAX has the longest possible distance between any two gates (a 53-minute walk).
  • Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) has the longest travel time between security and gate (19 minutes).
  • The longest single terminal of any airport is Terminal B at Denver International, where it takes 23 minutes to walk from one end to the other.

The worst airports for connecting flights

When you’re worried about having enough time to make a connecting flight, the design of an airport and its terminals can have a major impact on your experience.

To evaluate how good or bad each airport is for connecting flights, we looked at airport maps and calculated the distance (and travel time) it would take to travel between:

  • Gates on opposite sides of the terminal. We used the main terminal in each airport, or the largest terminal if none were designated “main.”
  • The furthest possible gates at the airport. This nightmare scenario usually involves crossing multiple terminals.
  • Security to the farthest-away gate. In some airports, this means taking trains, or even buses.

We used these data points to create a “connectivity score” for each airport.

A map of the U.S. showing the worst airports across the country for making a connecting flight.

These are the airports that got the worst connectivity scores in our analysis:

1. Denver International Airport (DEN)

    • Longest walk between any two gates in the airport: 34 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk end-to-end in largest terminal: 23 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk from security to farthest-away gate: 15 minutes
      • Connectivity score: 4.0/25

Walking from one end of Denver International’s largest terminal to the other end takes 23 minutes — the longest of any airport. And that’s not the only issue.

While Denver International can be the toughest airport in the country for passengers making a connecting flight, it’s also the airport with the worst delay problem in the country. That’s a mixed blessing for anyone who needs a little more time to transfer flights in Denver.

2. O'Hare International Airport (ORD)

    • Longest walk between any two gates in the airport: 49 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk end-to-end in largest terminal: 20 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk from security to farthest-away gate: 9 minutes
      • Connectivity score: 11.0/25

The longest walk between any two gates at Chicago O’Hare International Airport takes 49 minutes. That’s the second-longest among the 50 airports we evaluated — it’s only beat by LAX.

3. Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)

    • Longest walk between any two gates in the airport: 22 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk end-to-end in largest terminal: 15 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk from security to farthest-away gate: 19 minutes
      • Connectivity score: 11.6/25

Getting to the gate located the farthest away from security takes 19 minutes at Salt Lake City International Airport. That’s the longest of any airport we evaluated.

4. John Wayne Airport (SNA)

    • Longest walk between any two gates in the airport: 15 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk end-to-end in largest terminal: 15 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk from security to farthest-away gate: 11 minutes
      • Connectivity score: 11.7/25

Walking end-to-end in the largest terminal at Santa Ana’s John Wayne Airport takes 15 minutes, which is about 50% longer than the average of 10.2 minutes across all 50 airports we evaluated.

5. LaGuardia Airport (LGA)

    • Longest walk between any two gates in the airport: 39 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk end-to-end in largest terminal: 21 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk from security to farthest-away gate: 14 minutes
      • Connectivity score: 12.2/25

LaGuardia Airport has one of the longest possible walks from one side of the main terminal to the other, 21 minutes.

6. John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

    • Longest walk between any two gates in the airport: 38 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk end-to-end in largest terminal: 15 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk from security to farthest-away gate: 17 minutes
      • Connectivity score: 12.2/25

JFK has one of the longest possible treks between security and the farthest-away departure gate, 17 minutes. That is the second-longest walk of that kind possible, behind only Salt Lake City International.

7. Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport (MSP)

    • Longest walk between any two gates in the airport: 28 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk end-to-end in largest terminal: 12 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk from security to farthest-away gate: 7 minutes
      • Connectivity score: 12.7/25

Getting from the two gates situated farthest from one another at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International means a walk of nearly half an hour, nearly ten minutes longer than average across all 50 airports. MSP also features an above average walk time from one side of the main terminal to the other, 12 minutes.

8. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)

    • Longest walk between any two gates in the airport: 15 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk end-to-end in largest terminal: 15 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk from security to farthest-away gate: 10 minutes
      • Connectivity score: 12.9/25

Despite being a relatively small airport, Austin-Bergstrom International features walk times from security to the farthest-away gate as well as one side of the main terminal to the other that are longer than the average across all 50 airports.

9. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

    • Longest walk between any two gates in the airport: 53 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk end-to-end in largest terminal: 14 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk from security to farthest-away gate: 9 minutes
      • Connectivity score: 13.7/25

It can take nearly an hour to walk between the two gates located farthest apart at LAX, the longest walk of that kind at any airport in the country.

10. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)

    • Longest walk between any two gates in the airport: 18 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk end-to-end in largest terminal: 16 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk from security to farthest-away gate: 13 minutes
      • Connectivity score: 13.8/25

Walking from one end to the other of the largest terminal in the airport, and the longest possible walk from security to a gate at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, can take up to 50% longer than average.

The best airports for connecting flights

A map of the U.S. showing the best airports across the country for making a connecting flight.


1. Richmond International Airport (RIC)

    • Longest walk between any two gates in the airport: 8 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk end-to-end in largest terminal: 4 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk from security to farthest away gate: 4 minutes
      • Connectivity score: 23.2/25

It takes just two minutes to walk from one side of an average-sized terminal at Richmond International Airport to the other side, and only four minutes to do the same in the airport’s largest terminal, both of which are among the shortest walks of those types in the country.

2. Tampa International Airport (TPA)

    • Longest walk between any two gates in the airport: 13 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk end-to-end in largest terminal: 5 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk from security to farthest away gate: 2 minutes
      • Connectivity score: 22.8/25

The terminals at Tampa International are set up so that travelers are very near their departure gate once they are through security. As a result, it only takes 2 minutes to walk from a security checkpoint to the gate situated farthest away in the terminal, the shortest walk in the nation.

3. Boise Airport (BOI)

    • Longest walk between any two gates in the airport: 3 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk end-to-end in largest terminal: 3 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk from security to farthest away gate: 6 minutes
      • Connectivity score: 22.6/25

The longest walk between any two gates and how long it takes to walk end-to-end in the largest terminal at Boise Airport are the same walk, one that takes just 3 minutes. In both of those metrics, that walk time ranks as the best in the country.

4. Jacksonville International Airport (JAX)

    • Longest walk between any two gates in the airport: 8 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk end-to-end in largest terminal: 3 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk from security to farthest away gate: 6 minutes
      • Connectivity score: 22.1/25

Jacksonville International scores highly in multiple categories, as walking between any two points after security will take less than 10 minutes.

5. Bradley International Airport (BDL)

    • Longest walk between any two gates in the airport: 9 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk end-to-end in largest terminal: 3 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk from security to farthest away gate: 6 minutes
      • Connectivity score: 21.5/25

Walking from one side to the other in the largest terminal at Hartford’s Bradley International Airport takes just 3 minutes, tied for the shortest walk of that kind in any of America’s busiest airports.

6. Ontario International Airport (ONT)

    • Longest walk between any two gates in the airport: 15 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk end-to-end in largest terminal: 7 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk from security to farthest away gate: 4 minutes
      • Connectivity score: 21.1/25

In addition to gates that are located in close proximity to security, the largest terminal at Ontario International Airport in California takes less than 10 minutes to fully traverse from one end to the other.

7. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

    • Longest walk between any two gates in the airport: 19 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk end-to-end in largest terminal: 5 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk from security to farthest away gate: 6 minutes
      • Connectivity score: 20.9/25

Small terminals and security checkpoints that afford relatively quick access to departure gates help make SeaTac one of the 10 best airports for connecting flights.

8. San Antonio International Airport (SAT)

    • Longest walk between any two gates in the airport: 19 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk end-to-end in largest terminal: 8 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk from security to farthest away gate: 5 minutes
      • Connectivity score: 20.5/25

San Antonio International Airport’s average terminal takes 50% less time to walk end-to-end than average.

9. Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)

    • Longest walk between any two gates in the airport: 11 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk end-to-end in largest terminal: 11 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk from security to farthest away gate: 6 minutes
      • Connectivity score: 20.3/25

RDU is another airport where passengers are able to quickly get to their departure gate once they are through security, as the farthest gate from the checkpoint is just a 6-minute walk.

10. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)

    • Longest walk between any two gates in the airport: 18 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk end-to-end in largest terminal: 5 minutes
    • How long it takes to walk from security to farthest away gate: 7 minutes
      • Connectivity score: 20.2/25

Ronald Reagan Airport has some of the smallest terminals in the country, as it takes just 5 minutes to go from one side to the other in the airport’s largest terminal, and just 2 minutes to do the same in an average-sized terminal.

Airports with the longest and shortest distance from security to the gate

Regardless of whether a connecting flight is involved or not, getting through security and finding the correct gate once they do can be a confusing and disorienting process for many travelers. This can become even more harrowing the farther the gate is from security. 

A graphic showing the airports with the longest walks from security to the farthest-away gate.

Passengers at Salt Lake City International Airport face the longest potential trek of this kind, as it takes 19 minutes to get from security to the departure gate. John F. Kennedy International and Denver International are the only other airports with walks of this kind that take at least 15 minutes. 


How to save when you fly

While it's interesting to look at average airfares to understand how airports compare cost-wise, it's important to remember these are just averages. As you plan your travel, you'll find costs can vary widely at a single airport. You can find a deal at any airport with little research and smart planning.

Here are a few tips to save when traveling:

  • Save time and money with complimentary TSA PreCheck. Using a TSA PreCheck line is generally faster and easier than going through the normal line at security, but that convenience comes with a cost. Unless you have a credit card that covers TSA PreCheck. A number of popular card issuers give users a credit that covers the cost of TSA PreCheck enrollment.
  • Get a fresh start on travel rewards. Some people are experts at earning points and other rewards when they book travel expenses such as plane tickets, hotel reservations, and rental cars. Others, however, have no idea where to begin when it comes to these kinds of savings. For those people, a top travel credit card for beginners is the perfect place to start learning and earning on their next trip.
  • Kick back and relax at the airport. For anyone experiencing a delay or a lengthy layover, it can be hard to find a good place to settle in and get comfortable at the airport. If they have a free lounge access credit card, however, they can enjoy complimentary access to the extra space and amenities of an airport lounge.

Methodology

FinanceBuzz used the “Interactive Airport Maps” feature of the TripIt App to find how long it would take to walk between different points within 50 of the busiest airports in the United States.

Five different walk times with specific start and end points were collected. Those walk times were compared against each other using a dynamic formula that assigned each walk time a score of 0-5 relative to the same walk at every other airport. Those scores were then added together to give each airport an overall “connectivity score,” with 25 being the highest possible score and 0 being the lowest possible score.

We looked at the following metrics representing some worst-case scenarios for travelers needing to transfer planes during their journey.

  • The longest possible walk between any two gates in the airport: Some connections will require travelers to transfer between terminals. If their arrival gate is located at the end of one terminal and their departure gate is at the farthest end of another, the trip between the two can be particularly long.
  • The walk from one end to the other in the largest terminal at the airport: If both legs of a connection are operated by the same airline, the arrival gate for the first flight and departure gate for the connection will often be in the same terminal, which is convenient for anyone trying to make a connection. If those gates are at opposite ends of a particularly large terminal, however, it can still take time to navigate between them.
  • The walk from one end to the other in one of the airport’s average-sized terminals: Airlines operate out of different terminals at every airport, and not every terminal is the same size. In addition to finding out how long it takes to walk end-to-end at the biggest (and presumably busiest) terminal in every airport, we found how long it takes to walk end-to-end in an average-sized terminal.
  • The walk from security to the closest possible boarding gate: Even if they pass through security at their initial point of departure, if a connecting flight is taking off from a different terminal than the one they landed in, passengers will often have to pass through security all over again. Departure gates located close to the security checkpoint make it easier to pass through security again and still make your connection.
  • The walk from security to the farthest possible boarding gate: Alternately, airports that are designed in a way that puts some gates particularly far away from security can make it harder to transfer between flights.

Author Details

Josh Koebert

Josh Koebert is an experienced content marketer that loves exploring how personal finance overlaps with topics such as sports, food, pop culture, and more. His work has been featured on sites such as CNN, ESPN, Business Insider, and Lifehacker.