PDX Reclaims Title of Best US Airport

Take that, Indianapolis!

By Margaret Seiler September 9, 2021

A dense groups of clear and blue discs hanging from the ceiling in front of a large window, with blurred images of people crossing in the foreground

An art installation from Jacob Hashimoto hangs over a ceremonial square of PDX carpet in the year-old Concourse E expansion, one of the steady list of improvements propelling PDX back to the top of the airport rankings.

There are so many asterisks attached to things that happened in 2020. The sports championships sort of counted. The grades on those report cards for remote learning didn't really matter. And that claim in Travel & Leisure last summer that Portland International was only the second best domestic airport, edged out by a whole 13 hundredths of a point by (checks notes) Indianapolis? A blip. A fluke. An early pandemic skewing of reality. (Voting closed at the start of March, just before the shutdown.)

Thankfully, all is right with the world again. Well, if not "all," then at least when it comes to airport rankings. PDX is back on top, for the seventh time in the past eight years, followed by Georgia's Savannah/Hilton Head International, with Indianapolis tumbling to fifth place.  Check out our "Ultimate Guide to Portland International Airport" to see why Portlanders love their airport—or see below for just a few of the zillion reasons.

1. It's a little Portland where it never rains.

Under the airport's soaring skylights, travelers can find airport versions of countless local faves and regional treasures: Stumptown Coffee, Hopworks Urban Brewery, Tillamook Cheese, Mo's Seafood & Chowder, Pendletoon Woolen Mills. There's even a mini Hollywood Theatre.  Not everything has stayed open through the challenges of the pandemic and the main terminal renovation (please come back, Tamale Boy!), but there's enough there to announce, very clearly, that you're in Portland.

2. You can get there from here.

PDX didn't budge, but it got a lot closer to downtown when the Airport MAX line opened on Monday, September 10, 2001. The events of the next day might have canceled festivities planned for the following weekend, but travelers and airport workers can have their own private celebration every time they hop on the Red Line, which takes just 40 minutes from Pioneer Courthouse Square to the terminal. Traffic? Parking? Irrelevant!

3. It made a carpet cool.

What was that Joni Mitchell song? Don't know what you got till it's gone? When the Port of Portland announced in 2013 it was time to recarpet paradise—er, PDX, that is—people suddenly stopped, looked down, got all misty and sense-of-place-y, and started taking pictures of their shoes. Was is a little overboard? Yes. Was it too great a gift to foot fetishists? Maybe. Was it all sunshine and roses and smooth order fulfillment for souvenirs? No, according to a recent follow-up in the Oregonian. But is it still kind of sweet that it happened? Yeah. Yeah, it is.

4. There's no airport inflation.

Thanks to PDX's "street pricing" policy, if an airport business also has a location outside of the airport it can't charge more for the same items at the airport location. So that last-minute gift from Tender Loving Empire, sandwich from Elephants, or coffee from Stumptown? It won't break your travel budget.  

5. It doesn't rest on its laurels.

Just chill at no. 1? Nah, like a boxer in a training montage, PDX is constantly improving. From big projects like last year's Concourse E addition or the flashy new roof landing in 2022 to little things like art installation refreshes and new bars and restaurants, PDX is always looking to lengthen its lead.

Come at us again, Indianapolis, if you dare.