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And the Best Airport in North America Is …

I’m a sucker for surveys that purport to reveal the best of this, the worst of that. If a thousand savvy consumers agree that the Panasonic X-2000 Ear and Nose Hair Trimmer is the best in class, who am I to argue? It’s the powerful principle underlying crowd sourcing: More input yields better output. That’s the theory, at least. And it generally proves sound in practice.

It was with that mindset that I found myself perusing Business Traveler’s “Best in Business Travel Awards.” Here’s how the publication tees up the awards:

The readers of Business Traveler are world-class experts in the business of business travel. You understand when you’re on the road, you’re there because your business thrives on travel—and so you constantly stay on the lookout for hottest spots, the coolest trends, the very best ways to make that travel experience more efficient, more productive and, of course, more pleasurable.

So, frequent travelers picking the best airlines, hotels, airports, and so on. Should be good information, I reasoned, either confirming my own assessments, or giving me a hint that perhaps in some areas the stars are realigning.

Indeed, most of the results were predictable:

  • Best airline in the world – Singapore
  • Best airline alliance – Star
  • Best business hotel chain – Hilton
  • Best luxury hotel chain – Four Seasons
  • Best North American airline – Virgin America

A couple of the results were eye-openers, suggesting that a reassessment on my part might be in order:

  • Best first-class service by a North American airline – Delta
  • Best frequent-flyer program – United MileagePlus

And then there was this:

  • Best airport in North America – Los Angeles International

Even allowing for inevitable differences between my perceptions and priorities and others’, there’s no conceivable way that LAX is the best of America’s airports. It’s not even in the top 25. It might not even be the best airport in Southern California.

I haven’t flown in first class on Delta in decades. And I’m not an active participant in United’s mileage program. So I’m willing to give Business Traveler voters a provisional benefit of the doubt on those results, even though they’re at odds with my own opinions.

But I’ve been to LAX twice in the past month. It’s my hometown airport. And it’s a mess. Confusing. Constant construction projects. Security delays. It’s been described as a third-world airport, and that’s not totally unfair.

I’m left wondering how a supposedly well-traveled group of consumers could have dubbed LAX their top airport pick. And since there’s no possibility of querying them individually on their votes, we never will know how they arrived at that result.

What we do know—and the LAX award confirms—is that crowd sourcing has its limits. As Ronald Regan memorably cautioned: Trust, but verify.

Reader Reality Check

What’s your vote for the best airport in North America?

This article originally appeared on

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