A new survey of passenger satisfaction with North American airports found that flyers’ happiness with the airport experience is at “an all-time high” with airports like Orlando, Detroit and Las Vegas emerging as favorites. However, The J.D. Power survey points to big frustrations at facilities undergoing major construction projects.
I have to agree with those findings when I think about how much airports have improved in the last 10-20 years compared to the cold, institutional spaces I trundled through in the 80s and 90s.
On the company’s 1,000-point satisfaction scale, the overall airport rating jumped 18 points this year, to a record score of 749. The biggest increase – 25 points – came for the security screening process, as TSA has increased staffing and continues to deploy new automated screening lanes that move passengers through the process about 30 percent faster than before.
J.D. Power notes that passengers also report significantly higher satisfaction levels with check-in/baggage check – thanks largely to technological improvements like self-service bag checking – and in the food, beverage and retail concessions available at airports.
However, the survey found that the hassles created for travelers by construction projects at some major airports – like Newark, Los Angeles, New York LaGuardia and Chicago O’Hare — are an obstacle to passenger satisfaction. Those airports “are still fighting the headwinds of traveler disruption and access challenges that are handicapping their overall satisfaction scores,” the company said.
Despite its overall low score, improvements at United’s Terminal C have pushed Newark to near the top of my personal favorites— especially with the (usually) quick and easy rail connections to Penn Station. (However its A & B terminals are still pretty awful) LAX is getting better, but it’s going to be a while until Delta makes improvements on its new hand-me-down digs there at Terminals 2 and 3. Everyone still loves to hate LaGuardia, but you can’t beat its proximity to Midtown Manhattan.
Now in is 12th year, the J.D. Power survey for 2017 recorded the opinions of more than 34,000 travelers. They were asked to rate their airport experience in several areas, including terminal facilities, airport accessibility, security screening, baggage claim, check-in/baggage check, and dining/retail concessions.
The results separated airports into three categories based on size: mega, large and medium. Ranking first among “mega” airports in passenger satisfaction was Orlando International, followed by Detroit Metro and La Vegas McCarran.
California airports took top honors in the other two categories. The highest-rated large airport was John Wayne/Orange County, just edging out Tampa International and Dallas Love Field. Among medium-sized airports, Sacramento finished in first place, followed by Indianapolis and Anchorage.
San Francisco International finished in the middle of the pack – 9th out of 18 – in the mega category. Newark was dead last in that category, just below LAX and O’Hare. In the large airport category, San Diego finished eighth and Oakland came in at 15th, while LaGuardia – in the early phases of a massive reconstruction – finished last in 20th place. Among the 21 medium-sized facilities, San Jose was in 15th place, just below Hollywood Burbank Airport (formerly called Bob Hope Airport). Ranking last in the medium category was Connecticut’s Bradley International, just below Cleveland Hopkins.
Airports are facing significant challenges in maintaining satisfaction levels, J.D. Power said, as passenger numbers at many of them are straining capacities. However, “technology is helping to directly address these issues,” the company noted. “For example, Sacramento International Airport has developed a smartphone app that tells travelers where they can find a parking spot, and virtually every airport in the country has invested heavily in improving phone-charging stations and internet access in their terminals.”
What are your most and least favorite airports… or airport terminals? Where have you seen the most dramatic improvements? Please leave your comments below.