Pushy passengers and howling babies aside, one of the most tortuous aspects of flying is waiting in the often slow and tedious security line. The good news is the worst airport wait times are not that phenomenally bad, as long as you don’t think an average of 40 minutes is all that bad.
You can always check real-time wait times on the TSA app when you’re actually at the airport so you can find the shortest line. And here comes a rundown on the worst airport wait times provided by MiFlight (and some personal experience), with the worst average wait times recorded at each airport.
40 minutes: LAX
Waiting an average of 40 minutes in the security line at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) may not be that surprising. And it’s a heck of a lot more feasible than the airport’s longest recorded wait time of 2 hours 21 minutes. The bustling hub connects multiple carriers and serves 70.6 million passengers every year.
35 minutes: LGA
New Yorkers are known for being in a hurry, which can make the average security line wait time of 35 minutes seem like eternity at Queens’ LaGuardia Airport (LGA). The airport’s longest recorded security line wait time was 2 hours 22 minutes, a scant 60 seconds longer than LAX. The airport serves upwards of 25.7 million passengers every year.
25 minutes: ORD
Chicago O’Hare International (ORD) ranks third on the list of longest average security wait times and third on the list of most annual passengers. But it’s easily No. 1 when it comes to annual takeoffs and landings, with more than 585,000 planes streaming through the airport in 2015. Its annual passenger count is 70 million, and its longest wait time was 1 hour 59 minutes.
25 minutes: DEN
Denver airport wait time does fluctuate, but if you’re planning to take off on a typically busy morning or evening, expect a wait time of at least 25 minutes. That, paired with the fact that it’s so far from the city, makes traveling a lengthy experience.
24 minutes: MIA
With a security line wait time that once clocked in at 3 hours 36 minutes, Miami International Airport (MIA) is not for the weak – or hurried. Thankfully the average wait time is a blissfully briefer 24 minutes, not bad for a hub that serves more than 39 million passengers each year.
21 minutes: JFK
If you thought the longest wait at MIA was bad, you can find an even more excruciating one of 3 hours 52 minutes at John F. Kennedy International (JFK). With an average wait time of 21 minutes, this New York airport is home to eight terminals that serves 90 airlines and an annual passenger load of 53.6 million.
21 minutes: ATL
While some airlines are literally reshaping security lines in this city, the wait at Atlanta’s massive airport can creep up, especially for those traveling during popular business hours.
20 minutes: DFW
Serving an annual 63.5 million passengers, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) is the biggest hub for American Airlines, which has its corporate headquarters nearby. The average wait time of 20 minutes is less than one-fifth of its longest wait time of 1 hour 48 minutes.
15 minutes: IAD
With an average wait time of 15 minutes, heading through the security line at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) may be faster than getting through some supermarket checkouts. The airport serves an annual 22.4 million passengers and has a longest wait time of 1 hour 30 minutes.
15 minutes: EWR
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) is a third option for New York area folks who don’t wait to wait the average 35 minutes at LGA or the 21 minutes at JFK. The New Jersey airport has an average wait time of 15 minutes, a longest wait time of 2 hours 48 minutes, and an annual passenger load of 34 million.
Although the worst wait time average of 40 minutes may not be all that bad, you can skip the worst airport wait times altogether with TSA PreCheck. Having your passport and other documentation at the ready is another way to zip through the lines, and that’s where Swift can help. Feel free to contact us with any questions at any time!
Rob Lee is co-founder of Swift Passport and Visa Services. Originally from Michigan, Rob is an avid fisherman and SCUBA diver who enjoys adventure travel.