The Most Connected Locations in the US

In a post called The Most Difficult States to Visit, I looked at which states were the most challenging for us to reach via car, plane, or cruise ship from our home in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the process, I learned that we can fly nonstop to 33 of the 50 states from one or more of the three international airports located 45 miles from home (SFO, OAK, SMF). They've either added a route or I missed it before, as SFO now shows a nonstop flight to Wyoming, bringing our total to 34. In several of those states, we can fly nonstop to multiple cities. We're lucky that we are so well-connected where we live.

Contrast this with Fargo, North Dakota. It's an international airport, but one of the smallest I've been in. (And the only one I've ever seen where security shuts down between flights.) You can fly nonstop to only 8 states, one of which is seasonal. (Oddly, this map has California and Georgia colored in, despite not flying nonstop to either one.) 

I don't know if Fargo is the least connected international airport in the US; that's a topic for a future post. Today's question is: What airports in the US are the most connected?   

A quick Google search indicates the answer is DFW. When that article was written in 2022, Dallas had 239 nonstop destinations, seven more than Chicago O'Hare (ORD). Atlanta (ATL) and Denver (DEN) were tied at 208. In a 2023 article by Simple Flying, ORD takes the top position and DFW is second. FlightsFrom shows that Dallas has 256 destinations and ORD has 246 as of January 2024. 

I'm not surprised that Dallas and Chicago are well-connected. They are major metropolitan areas located in the middle of the country, with (relatively) easy access to less populated states that don't have major airports. There is second airport serving each of those metro areas as well - Love Field in Dallas (DAL) and Midway in Chicago (MDW). Locals have a lot of options. 

So DFW and ORD have the most nonstop flights, but that includes international destinations and multiple cities in some states. And it doesn't take into account their secondary airports. For the purposes of this post, I want to find out how many states each metro area services nonstop. 

First up: the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area. Unfortunately, DFW does not have a handy map of nonstop destinations on their website like others do. (Yea Fargo!) Instead, I looked at the interactive map from FlightsFrom for DFW. I learned that you can fly nonstop from Dallas to 46 states: all except West Virginia, Delaware, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. 

Love Field has nonstop flights to Providence, so there are only three states you can't reach nonstop from Dallas. And, of course, in each case those states are an easy drive from a location that does have nonstop service. 

Let's look at Chicagoland next. Thanks for the handy map, O'Hare!

From O'Hare, you won't be flying nonstop to Mississippi, Delaware, or New Hampshire. You won't be flying into anything between the western border of Wyoming (Jackson Hole) or the eastern border of Iowa (Sioux City) either, but technically you can fly to those states, so I'm ignoring that giant gap in the northern plains. 

Let's see if Midway gets us to one of the three missing states. They don't have a map, but there's a list of nonstop destinations. Mississippi, no. Delaware, no. New Hampshire, yes!

Chicago moves into the lead! You can fly to 48 of the 50 states from Chicagoland and 47 states from the Dallas area. Thinking that perhaps another big metro area in the center of our country would match or beat these two, I looked at nonstop flights from Denver. Impressive, coming in at 45 states (no direct flights to Delaware, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, or West Virginia), but Denver doesn't beat Chicago or Dallas. 

Let's look at another midwest powerhouse. Minneapolis-St. Paul is very well connected, but does it beat the previous three?

Nope. You can't fly to Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, or Maine from Minneapolis. That puts MSP with nonstop flights to 43 states, in fourth place so far.

Let's go back to what got this all started: San Francisco. Previously I said that 34 states are accessible from the three closest airports to our home halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento. That's true, but there are two problems since I'm trying to compare metro areas across the US. First, San Francisco and Sacramento are not the same metro area. They may each be approximately 45 miles from me, but they are just over 100 miles from each other. But as it turns out, when I remove Sacramento from the SFO / OAK statistics... nothing changes. 

The second issue is that I didn't account for the fact that the Bay Area has yet another major airport: San Jose. They have nonstop flights to a decent number of places, but San Jose does not get us to any of the states that SFO and OAK don't. So San Francisco comes in with 34 states, a distant fifth so far. 

But I'm not ready to officially call it yet. Tomorrow I'll look into how many states you can reach nonstop from several other major metropolitan areas. 


  1. Only Cindy will be crazy and organized enough to do this research.

    1. LOL. Or someone else who hates layovers as much as I do!


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