Travel+Leisure has picked Portland International as the best airport in America two years running. At first I was surprised because the airport is modest and largely domestic. But PDX has grown on me, a lot like the city itself. The airport is easy to navigate, the retail focus is local and quality, and it’s just a little bit weird.
1. Free Wifi
Yes. Easy to access and no time limit, but it does disconnect if you don’t use your device for a while.
2. Train Connection To Somewhere Worth Seeing On A Four-Hour Layover
Yes! Portland! PDX is nine miles north of downtown Portland, and the MAX Red Line (light rail) does the trip in 38 minutes. Jump off downtown, find Stumptown for an Americano or Clyde Common next door for a bourbon, and then wander around, counting all the bikes and bacon and beards.
As a side note, bike-friendly Portland even encourages passengers to bike to their flight. Trails in the regional cycling network connect to the airport and there is secure bike parking and a bike repair facility at PDX.
3. Duty Free Costs
Buy outside of the airport. PDX does not appear to have duty free sales in the airport. Perhaps this is because most of the air traffic is domestic? Or maybe it’s because the whole state is tax free anyway? Or maybe… the good people at PDX did this intentionally, so you skip the Grey Goose and pick up some of Portland’s small batch distilling instead. Try Aviation Gin, or New Deal’s vodka or gin. If you have time, you can tour Distillery Row to research the options for yourself.
Perfume? I really can’t advise as the Portland circles I travel in are so PC, they are scent-free.
4. Security Screening
A non-event. Each time I’ve made it through in less than 10 minutes, and the screening staff are, dare I say, polite.
5. Ease of Orientation
Idiot-proof. Departures is on one floor, Arrivals is on the other. It’s a single, slightly curved structure, no trains between terminals or any of that nonsense.
6. Pre-Flight Food
Food carts! Food choices in many American airports are cookie-cutter combinations of mediocre global chains. Not in Portlandia! Instead of a food court, PDX has a food cart pod with branches of some of the most famous food carts in the city. Start with Pok Pok’s legendary Thai chicken wings, the hit Koi Fusion, and wash things down with a Portland microbrew at the Laurelwood Public House.
7. Architecture/Interior Design
The carpet has an instagram account… I’m not kidding. PDX’s teal carpet with geometric shapes is another sign that the 90’s are alive in Portlandia, and is recognizable around the world. PDX invites travellers to tweet their feet, and the carpet has a Facebook account as well.
8. Most Exotic Destination on the Departures Board
Overall Rating for PDX: 90%