Humble Sacramento Has America's Most Relaxed Airport

The loading area of my youth, the inimitable Terminal A at Sacramento International Airport. Photo Credit: BDS2006 on Wikimedia Commons
The loading area of my youth, the inimitable Terminal A at Sacramento International Airport. Photo Credit: BDS2006 on Wikimedia Commons
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As a current New York City resident, I’m constantly barraged with warnings of “Don’t fly out of Newark, it sucks” only to hear a week later “Don’t fly out of JFK, it sucks” and then usually “Don’t fly out of Laguardia, it sucks.” All my options are bad. But there are those of us near little regional hubs that have it easy.


My boss, sweet, innocent Patrick George, has absolutely no comprehension at how much time it takes to get onto a plane here in NYC. This is because he flies out of Austin, Texas, which I think is just a large single building operated solely by a guy named Zeke. It’s easy, and he’s spoiled. He shows up to that airport, goes through a 10 minute security line, grabs some tacos, and he’s out. He thinks he can do the same in NYC and he almost always misses his flight.

I, too, was once spoiled by my local airport. Sacramento. It was always a no-traffic drive to get to, routed over the beautiful tree-lined Sacramento River, and it was always so small that you never really needed to worry about security. Other airports, San Francisco for instance, felt massive and international and oppressive and humanity-crushing. They leered at you with bad food and big signs.

Sacramento felt more like a ferry terminal that happened to have planes. The food court (bad) was tucked away down a hallway past two baggage terminals. Sacramento was wisely telling you to bring a sandwich and an apple.

None of this should be all too surprising; even after its major expansion a few years back Sacramento International Airport is still only shuffling around nine and a half million people a year. San Francisco handles five times that, as does New York’s JFK.

The airport has expanded greatly since my youth, but every time I return home, it’s still neat and simple, unobtrusive to your job of getting off your plane, getting your bags, and getting back to your life. Getting onto a plane, and watching after takeoff as the flat Central Valley surges up into its two bordering mountain ranges, is equally chill.

I’ve flown out of other airports in the country that I think match it in ease (Little Rock, which is like Bizarro Southern Sacramento, also has a good airport), but none quite match Sacramento’s detachment from the sense of inconvenience and security theater that makes other airports so garbage.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.


The story is a local politician owned the land when they picked it in the latter part of the 1960s. All I know is they couldn’t have picked a worse place as they get fog from the river a lot more readily than other areas of Sacramento.

I still think they are a little presumptuous renaming it “Sacramento International” - because of the weekly flight to Tijuana?