CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WGHP) – So do you have a favorite airport? If so, we bet we know what drives your choice: on-time in-and-out, the potential for cheap fares, faster security lines and cheap parking.

With our busiest travel days approaching for Thanksgiving and Christmas – lookout for Sunday and Wednesday this week – The Wall Street Journal feels your pain and once again has ranked the best airports in the country among the 20 largest and 30 it calls midsized.

Passengers queue up at the ticketing counter. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

You might be happy/surprised to learn that Charlotte Douglas International ranks No. 9 among those 20 largest airports, and Raleigh-Durham is No. 11 among the midsized.

Piedmont Triad International – or any other airport in North Carolina – had a passenger count that was large enough to rank among those 50.

The best? San Francisco International was No. 1 among the larger airports – followed by Atlanta Minneapolis, Detroit and Phoenix – and Sacramento is tops among the midsized (ahead of San Diego, San Jose, San Antonio and Portland).

The worst: Newark and LaGuardia hold up the rest of the two lists.

How they did it

We can debate the details until oxygen is deployed, but the Journal had a method to its madness. There were 19 key measures employed, and they were grouped under the headings you might suggest: Reliability, Convenience and Value.

Reliability comprised 61% of the score, and this includes on-time arrivals and departures, arrival and departure delay times, taxi in/out, security waiting times and percentage of delays caused by security. Safety also is included (thankfully).

The Convenience score includes J.D. Power’s customer-satisfaction scoreMinneapolis, San Francisco and Detroit topped that list, with Charlotte 10th – with the availability of non-stop destinations, the length of your walk to the gate and even Yelp’s ratings of the airport’s restaurants on the menu.

Value includes average ticket price, cheapest on-site parking, rental car fees and even Uber fares and the cost of a bottle of water.

More about Charlotte Douglas

Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) is viewed on November 13, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)
Charlotte Douglas International Airport is viewed on November 2019. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)

Based on data compiled by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Charlotte Douglas ranked fifth nationally for the number of commercial departures in the fiscal year ending Aug. 31, with 219,014, up 4.57% from the prior year.

The airport was eighth in both arriving and departing passengers, with more than 21 million of each. Both those totals were up more than 22%.

American Airlines, as you might expect, accounts for 65.11% of those totals, with the next largest share belonging to Delta, at only 2.5%. But CLT ranked fifth for 81% on-time arrival and ninth for 80% on-time departure during that time.

The Wall Street Journal’s scorecard for Charlotte Douglas International Airport. (WSJ)

The Wall Street Journal gave Charlotte Douglas 46 points out of 100 – compared to SFO’s 61 points – getting 48 for Reliability (SFO’s 72 was best), 34 for Value (Orlando scored 81) and 56 for Convenience (SFO again, 69).

Charlotte ranked fourth for on-time arrival and fifth for average arrival delay (13 minutes). It was seventh for on-time departure and fourth for length of delay (11 minutes). It has the seventh-fastest security clearance.

But this may surprise you: Charlotte’s average domestic ticket price is $382, which is the highest among those 20 airports (perhaps because one airline dominates so many of the flights and passengers), but CLT does have the sixth-most domestic destinations.

You also may be comforted to know that CLT is third for cheapest on-site parking ($10) and fourth among Yelp restaurant ratings.

About RDU

A passenger jet takes off at Raleigh Durham International Airport. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Raleigh-Durham was 37th for passenger counts (around 5.4 million) on 54,910 flights, BTS reports. Its on-time departure rate was 86%, and arrivals was 83%. There were no comparative rankings among its peer airports.

Delta accounts for 23.81% of RDU’s passengers, followed by American (21.22%) and Southwest (15.06%).

In leading the Journal’s rankings, Sacramento posted an overall score of 70, including 80 for Reliability, 50 for Convenience and 56 for Value. The best scores were Sacramento for Reliability, Pittsburgh (70) for Value and Houston Hobby (74) for Convenience

The Wall Street Journal’s scorecard for Raleigh-Durham International Airport. (WSJ)

In ranking 11th, RDU scored 59 points, with 58 for Reliability, 66 for Value and 55 for Convenience.

RDU’s best score under Reliability was the sixth-fastest security clearance and eighth for what is called BTS security delay. It ranked third for airline market share and seventh for charging an average of $2.29 for a bottle of water.

Under Convenience, RDU scored well (sixth) for maximum walking distance (1,328 feet, or about a quarter of a mile), and seventh for its customer satisfaction score (JD Power ranks it fifth among “Large Airports”).

Big industry

The Federal Aviation Administration says there are 16.405 million flights every year (about 45,000 a day), with passenger counts surpassing 2.9 million every day in and out of 19,633 U.S. airports (5,082 of them public) controlled by 520 towers.

This undated image provided by Boom Supersonic shows Boom Supersonic Overture Aircraft. American Airlines says it has agreed to buy up to 20 supersonic jets. (Boom Supersonic via AP)

Aviation earnings each year total about $488 billion, and the industry accounts for 5.2% of the nation’s gross domestic product. You know that Boom Aerospace’s manufacturing facility in Greensboro will expand that number.

WalletHub, the online financial portal that analyzes all manner of data, earlier this year ranked Delta Air Lines as the best one flying (also the most reliable), followed by Hawaiian, Alaska, Envoy and Spirit. Frontier was ranked the cheapest and JetBlue the most comfortable. Alaska was the safest.