This East Coast Airport Terminal Was Just Named One of the Best in the World

Aviation ranking organization Skytrax just doled out its newest five-star airport terminal rating. Can you guess which U.S. airport terminal received the top honor?

A sensory room for neurodivergent travelers at Newark Liberty International Airport, decorated to look like a stream running through a forest

Newark Liberty International Airport’s Terminal A provides a sensory room for neurodivergent travelers looking for a quiet respite from the hubbub.

Courtesy of The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Not long ago, Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in New Jersey was viewed as one of the worst airports to have a layover in. But with the opening of the futuristic 1-million-square-foot Terminal A in January 2023, Newark Airport has had a glow-up—and the travel industry has noticed.

Skytrax, an aviation ranking organization that recognizes the top airports and terminals worldwide, just awarded Newark’s Terminal A with a 5-Star Airport Terminal Rating, its highest honor.

Like the Michelin star of air travel, Skytrax ratings are considered the gold standard of airport excellence. Earning the rating puts Newark’s Terminal A in the same class as other award-winning airports like Doha, Qatar’s Hamad International Airport, Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, and Singapore Changi Airport.

According to Skytrax, the rating is awarded based on a detailed assessment of an “airport’s product and front-line service standards. The five-star terminal rating recognizes airport terminals that provide exceptional standards of facilities and staff service to customers.”

People walk around floor-to-ceiling digital art columns at Newark's Terminal A.

Newark’s Terminal A features ample art pieces such as these digital columns.

Photo by Barbara Peterson

The just-over-a-year-old, $2.7 billion terminal is a far cry from its dark, stuffy 50-year-old predecessor, which was built to accommodate only up to 9 million passengers annually, and often felt overcrowded. This new iteration, with its high ceilings and natural-light–filled concourses, by contrast, handled 15 million passengers in its first year. Currently, Air Canada, American, Delta, JetBlue, and United operate out of Newark’s Terminal A.

The new terminal offers a slew of modern amenities. In the departures hall, travelers have access to a variety of check-in kiosks, all equipped with facial-recognition technology, more than a dozen Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints for faster screening, and even a sensory room, decorated to look like a stream running through a forest, designed for neurodivergent travelers who need a quiet space to retreat to within the airport.

There are 60 percent more seats spread across the 33 gates (almost all of which have a conveniently located power source), more than 60 concessions (including two much-loved New Jersey bakeries, Bang Cookies and Tonnie’s Minis), a children’s play area, and myriad retail options. There are also oodles of locally produced and inspired art, such as the grove of digital towers depicting trees, each honoring a “first” in New Jersey’s history (one recognizes Thomas Edison, who invented the phonograph and an early version of the light bulb in his New Jersey laboratory).

two men standing at a long bar waiting for service from the bartender at the United lounge in Newark Airport

Cozy up to the bar—the centerpiece of the new United lounge in Newark’s Terminal A—for a preflight drink.

Andrew Glatt/United Airlines

Currently, there are three airline lounges: an American Admirals Club, a Delta Sky Club, and a United Lounge. An American Express Centurion Lounge is slated to open in 2026.

“We set out to raise the bar with Terminal A, from its soaring architecture to its streamlined design to its engaging local art,” said Kevin O’Toole, chairman of the board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, in a press release. “This stellar evaluation from the aviation industry’s preeminent rating organization proves we’ve accomplished exactly that, giving New Jersey a magnificent gateway that is taking its rightful place among the world’s best.”

In a press release, Edward Plaisted, CEO of Skytrax, said Newark’s “range of passenger facilities, easy customer wayfinding, excellent signage, and high standards of staff service” contributed to the recognition.

To date, only 21 other airports and terminals around the world have the same five-star designation. Of those, just two others are in North America: the William P. Hobby Airport in Houston and LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal B.

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at AFAR. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
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