West Coast Airports Ranked: The Ultimate List of Best-to-Worst Places to Fly

Written by Volia Schubiger
Published: July 23, 2023
Share on:


When it comes to quick and efficient traveling, the power of flying continues to be an amazing landmark and marvel for humanity. Unlike traveling in the olden days, thanks to the power of flying, we can also easily travel across states and oceans in just hours. However, this doesn’t mean that you’re always flying into luxury when you land at the airport. In fact, there are many airports throughout the United States that really need an upgrade, including West Coast airports.

You may be wondering why it matters which airports are the best and which are the worst. Well, when you’re traveling, the beginning and end of your trip all come together at the airport, and it can really make or break your travel experience. This is why we decided to put together this list with a focus on the west coast of the United States. Below are the West Coast airports ranked from best to worst places to fly.

1. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Phoenix, Arizona

March 2016 was the busiest month ever for Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

PHX is the eighth busiest airport in the USA.


Our list starts off with the best airport on the west coast to fly into: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The airport is located between Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe. This airport happens to be a hub for both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines which makes it a great spot for access to domestic travel throughout the States. 

Pros of PHX

One of the biggest pros of Phoenix International is that it is a hub for American Airlines and Southwest Airlines. Since it serves as a central location for these airlines, travelers have convenient access to lots of domestic destinations and more nonstop flights. There are also 19 other airlines that fly out of this airport, and you have 23 international travel destination options. Outside of ease of travel, this airport is also incredibly modernized, as Terminal 3 just underwent $590 million in renovations in 2020. The overall infrastructure of the airport has improved with a streamlined security checkpoint, additional baggage carousels, and more ticket counters. There are also new food and retail options as well.

Cons of PHX

Unfortunately, even the best airport on our list will have downsides. After all, no airport is perfect. One of the biggest drawbacks to this airport is simply how crowded it gets. There are only two terminals at this airport. This is the 12th busiest airport in the United States, and you’ll definitely notice that when you’re here. So be prepared to feel like you’re packed in when you’re here.

2. Portland International Airport, Portland, Oregon

Portland International Airport entrance

PDX is the abbreviation for Portland International Airport.

©M.O. Stevens / CC BY-SA 3.0 – License

Oregon’s largest airport is the Portland International Airport. This airport is a joint civil-military airport, and it is a hub for many airlines, including Alaska Airlines. Since it is conveniently located, this airport serves 90% of the state’s passenger air travel and around 95% of the air cargo.

Pros of PDX

When it comes to pros, the biggest benefit of traveling through Portland International Airport is how well laid out the airport is. Even though it is an incredibly busy airport, you wouldn’t even notice it. This is because the interior of the airport is designed incredibly well to avoid congestion. Additionally, the airport has recently been renovated, and it features a lot of great amenities and modern facilities. The airport is also easily accessed from the downtown area of Portland. Many reviews regarding this airport also describe the staff at this airport as incredibly friendly and helpful.

Cons of PDX

The biggest downside to Portland International Airport is that there are limited international flights. Additionally, there are times when the wayfinding to the departure section can be a bit complicated. Overall, however, this is a great airport that many people speak about favorably.

3. San Diego International Airport, San Diego, California

Aerial photo of San Diego International Airport in San Diego, California

San Diego International Airport covers 663 acres.

©GrapefruitSculpin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

There are many people who would argue that San Diego International Airport is their absolute favorite. This international airport is located three miles northwest of Downtown San Diego. When it comes to size, this airport is situated on 663 acres of land.

Pros of SAN

San Diego International Airport is known for being a pretty popular airport. The airport saw over 11 million travelers in 2022 alone. This ranked it as the 24th busiest airport in the country. One of the biggest upsides to this airport is that it is incredibly easy to navigate around. Although the airport is on the smaller side, many travelers have commented that it is quite clean and well-maintained. There are also tons of great choices for dining and shopping as well.

Cons of SAN

As far as downsides go, this airport does, unfortunately, have some outdated facilities that could use some renovation. Additionally, this airport has a reputation for being one of the most difficult to land into. This is because the airport only has one runway, and because of this, it is considered the busiest runway in the States. It is also incredibly close to San Diego’s skyscrapers, so pilots have to keep this in mind during takeoff and landing.

4. Salt Lake City International Airport, Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City International Airport in 2010

©Doc Searls from Santa Barbara, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Salt Lake City International Airport is a major airport for more than 2.5 million individuals. This airport is located about four miles west of Downtown Salt Lake City. It is the busiest airport in Utah and is responsible for supplying 1.3 million jobs to the community.

Pros of SLC

One of the reasons that Salt Lake City International Airport is so renowned is that it continues to rank high for on-time departures and arrivals in comparison to many other major airports. Additionally, this airport has the least flight cancellations among U.S. airports. You can also count on great domestic access because SLC is an airport hub for Delta Air Lines and SkyWest Airlines. The airport has also been undergoing a construction project that is adding new terminals, two new concourses, and a new parking garage. 

Cons of SLC

As great as SLC can be, there are definitely downsides. For starters, many travelers have complained that the security lines at this airport are horrendous. Many people have stated that they have waited for an absurd amount of time to get through security. Additionally, the travel to get to the gates can be overwhelming — especially for those that need assistance to get around.

5. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, SeaTac, Washington

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport from the air with the southern end of Puget Sound in late afternoon light

SEA, or the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, is the busiest airport in the Pacific Northwest.

©Kenneth Sponsler/Shutterstock.com

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is the main commercial airport that serves the Seattle metropolitan area in the state of Washington. The airport serves as a major hub for Alaska Airlines and is considered the 11th busiest airport in the U.S.

Pros of SEA

If you’re looking to travel to Asia and Europe, then SEA is just the right airport for you. There are 31 airlines that operate out of SEA, and the airport serves 91 domestic and 28 international non-stop flights. It also happens to be a hub for both Alaska and Delta Air Lines. The airport also recently underwent renovations that unveiled a range of fun new additions, such as upgraded amenities and more dining and retail choices.

Cons of SEA

Outside of the renovations done on Concourse N, a lot of the airport is still pretty outdated. Some of the terminals are still lacking when it comes to dining options and other amenities. Many travelers also noted that the airport has a poor signage system which leaves many travelers confused as to where to go.

6. Honolulu International Airport, Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu International Airport

©KeithH, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, also known as Honolulu International Airport, is the largest airport in Hawaii. The airport was named in honor of Daniel Inouye, a Honolulu native and Medal of Honor awardee, who served Hawaii as a senator from 1963 to 2012.

Pros of HNL

There aren’t many things to rave about when it comes to the experience at HNL. However, many travelers do appreciate that the food and drink selection available at the airport does represent a number of Hawaiian brands. You have a selection of choices from the Lahaina Chicken Company to the Honolulu Cookie Company.

Cons of HNL

There have been many negative reviews surrounding Honolulu’s international airport. For starters, many travelers have mentioned that the check-in process at the airport is difficult and not intuitive at all. There have also been complaints that the security process is chaotic and not well organized — so be prepared to head here early when traveling. Finally, a lot of the airport feels outdated and needs to be modernized.

7. Harry Reid International Airport, Paradise, Nevada

Harry Reid International Airport in Paradise, Nevada

Now known as Harry Reid International Airport was formerly McCarren International Airport.

©Tomás Del Coro from Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Harry Reid International Airport, formerly known as McCarran International Airport, is an international airport located in Paradise, Nevada. The airport is named after former US Senator Harry Reid, who represented Nevada in the Senate between 1987 and 2017.

Pros of LAS

One of the biggest upsides to this airport is its location. This airport is only five miles south of downtown Las Vegas — making it conveniently located. This means that you won’t have to worry about wasting a lot of travel to and from the airport. Once you land, you can expect to be in front of a slot machine quite quickly. There are also more than 15 airlines that serve the airport, and many of those flights are nonstop.

Cons of LAS

It’s a good thing that the airport is located so close to the Las Vegas Strip because you won’t want to spend a lot of time here. You might be wondering what the problem is. Well, for starters, this airport gets incredibly crowded. After all, it is the seventh most busy airport in the U.S. Additionally, a lot of the facilities and amenities are outdated and are in need of an upgrade. Also, unlike many other airports in the States, this one doesn’t feature many local options when it comes to dining and drinking.

8. Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles International Airport by Don Ramey Logan

Although one of the nation’s busiest airports, LAX falls below other West Coast airports.

©Photograph by D Ramey Logan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Known simply as LAX, Los Angeles International Airport is the main international airport serving those in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas of Southern California. It is considered to be the fifth busiest airport in the United States.

Pros of LAX

As one of the busiest airports in the country, you can expect to find tons of different flights coming in and out of this airport. In fact, there are more than 70 airlines that fly non-stop here, and there are tons of international flight options as well. You can easily travel to Asia, Europe, Africa, and Australia. Truly the biggest pro of this airport is how many flight options you get.

Cons of LAX

When it comes to downsides, it’s important to note just how outdated the overall infrastructure of LAX is. Some of the terminals at LAX are not connected airside; you’ll have to go through security whenever you’re changing terminals. The terminals are also quite outdated, and there aren’t as many amenities and dining options as you’d find in newer airports.

Summary of West Coast Airports Ranked: The Ultimate List of Best-to-Worst Places to Fly

1.Phoenix Sky Harbor International AirportPhoenix, Arizona
2.Portland International AirportPortland, Oregon
3.San Diego International AirportSan Diego, California
4.Salt Lake City International AirportSalt Lake City, Utah
5.Seattle-Tacoma International AirportSeaTac, Washington
6.Honolulu International AirportHonolulu, Hawaii
7.Harry Reid International AirportParadise, Nevada
8.Los Angeles International AirportLos Angeles, California

The photo featured at the top of this post is © KeithH, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License / Original

Share on:
About the Author

Volia Schubiger is a freelance copywriter and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding, and marketing. She has a background in Broadcast Journalism & Political Science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When she's not writing she loves traveling, perusing used book stores, and hanging out with her other half.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.