United Airlines is spending millions on improvements to its Terminal C hub at Newark Liberty International Airport, and for passengers, the work can’t be finished soon enough: A big new consumer survey finds Newark ranks at the bottom of all large U.S. airports in passenger satisfaction.
In fact, many U.S. airports have been spending lots of money on expansions and improvements in recent years, and it’s apparently having a generally positive impact on travelers. A new J.D. Power survey of 21,000 North American travelers — its first poll on airport satisfaction since 2010 — found that on a 1,000-point scale, passengers’ overall satisfaction with large airports has gone up 54 points in the past five years, to 719, while the score for medium-sized facilities jumped 69 points, to 752.
That’s not to say there aren’t still big differences from one airport to another. The survey found that among large airports, Oregon‘s Portland International scored highest in satisfaction (791), just ahead of Tampa (776) and Las Vegas McCarran (759). By contrast, the lowest-scoring large airports were some of the nation’s busiest: Newark (646), LaGuardia (655), Los Angeles International (670) and Chicago O’Hare (680). Atlanta’s giant Hartsfield-Jackson ranked 8th with a 742 score, while San Francisco was in the middle of the pack at 721.
Among medium-sized airports, Cleveland was at the bottom of the satisfaction list with a score of 698, just below Houston Hobby (700) and Hawaii’s Kahului (705). The highest-rated mid-sized facilities were Dallas Love Field and Southwest Florida International (both at 792), followed by Indianapolis and Raleigh-Durham (both at 789) and Jacksonville (787).
What makes a passenger decide that one airport is great while another is awful? J.D. Power found that key factors include retail concessions, security screening and gate areas. Airports that have added more new restaurants, bars, stores and other services “are realizing significant gains in overall customer satisfaction,” a J.D. Power official said.
The survey found an inverse correlation between passenger satisfaction levels and the amount of time it took them to go through check-in and security. And clean vs. messy gate areas can make a difference of almost 200 points in passengers’ satisfaction with the airport’s terminal facilities, J.D. Power said.
“Making sure travelers can hear flight announcements and having ample seating and outlets for charging electronics around a gate also lift satisfaction with terminal facilities by more than 130 index points,” the company said.
Another interesting finding: Older travelers tend to spend the most time in airports (an hour or more), but they spend a lot less money there ($7-$10) than Millennials and GenXers ($25 and $18 respectively), who are in airports on average for less than 50 minutes.
Check out the total listings below in the two charts from J.D. Power’s 2015 North American Airport Satisfaction Study.
Readers: What do you consider to be the country’s best and worst large and medium-sized airports? Do you agree with the J.D. Power findings? What can make or break your satisfaction with an airport? Post comments below.
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