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Fewer Flights, Crowded Terminals Impact Customer Satisfaction

Overall air traveler satisfaction with North American airports is down 25 points (on a 1,000-point scale) this year as travelers encounter fewer flights, more crowded terminals and sparse food and beverage offerings, according to a new study released by J.D. Power.

Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP), Tampa International Airport (TPA) and Indianapolis International Airport (IND) ranked highest in their respective segments, the study showed.

The 2022 performance comes after satisfaction reached an all-time high in 2021 when passenger volumes were still just a fraction of the historical norm. Now, as global passenger volume ticks back up to 91% of pre-pandemic levels and labor shortages have caused a record number of flight cancellations, travelers are again experiencing frustrations.

“The combination of pent-up demand for air travel, the nationwide labor shortage and steadily rising prices on everything from jet fuel to a bottle of water have created a scenario in which airports are extremely crowded and passengers are increasingly frustrated—and it is likely to continue through 2023,” said Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power. “In some ways, this is a return to normal as larger crowds at airports tend to make travelers more frazzled, but in cases where parking lots are over capacity, gates are standing room only and restaurants and bars are not even open to offer some reprieve, it is clear that increased capacity in airports can’t come soon enough.”

In fact, capacity was a key concern contributing to the lower satisfaction numbers. Overall customer satisfaction with North American airports fell 25 points to 777 this year amid rampant flight cancellations and crowded terminals. More than half (58%) of airport travelers described the airport terminal as severely or moderately crowded, nearly in line with 2019 when 59% of travelers said their airport was severely/moderately crowded.

In-terminal prices are also a concern, the data showed. Nearly one-fourth (24%) of travelers say they did not make any food or beverage purchases at the airport because they were too expensive. That’s up from 20% in 2021 and 23% in 2019. Similarly, traveler satisfaction with the reasonableness of food and beverage pricing declines this year.

J.D. Power also said some big declines in traveler satisfaction this year were found in the parking lot, where a shortage of space caused satisfaction with surface parking lots to decline 45 points from 2021. Meanwhile, 14% of travelers said parking was more expensive than they expected, up from 12% in 2021 and 11% in 2019.

Airport Rankings

The 2022 North America Airport Satisfaction Study measures overall traveler satisfaction with mega, large and medium North American airports by examining six factors (in order of importance): terminal facilities; airport arrival/departure; baggage claim; security check; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and retail. Mega airports are defined as those with 33 million or more passengers per year; large airports with 10 to 32.9 million passengers per year; and medium airports with 4.5 to 9.9 million passengers per year.

MSP ranked highest in passenger satisfaction among mega airports with a score of 800. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) ranked second at 796 while   Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport  (DTW) and John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) each rank third in a tie at 791.

TPA ranked highest among large airports with a score of 846. John Wayne Airport, Orange County (SNA) was second at 826 and Dallas Love Field (DAL) was third at 825.

Among medium airports, IND ranked highest with a score of 842. Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) (839) came second at 839, while  Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) and Southwest Florida International Airport (SNA) each rank third in a tie at 826.

Now in its 17th year, the study is based on 26,529 completed surveys from U.S. or Canadian residents who traveled through at least one U.S. or Canadian airport and covers both departure and arrival experiences (including connecting airports) during the past 30 days. Travelers evaluated either a departing or arriving airport from their round-trip experience. The study was fielded from August 2021 through July 2022.

Mega Airports

Large Airports

Medium Airports