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Passenger Satisfaction With N.A. Airports Reaches All-Time High, J.D. Power Report Shows

Overall passenger satisfaction with North American airports has reached an all-time high as airports of every size have found creative ways to address the challenges of constant construction projects and increased passenger capacity demand, according to the J.D. Power 2017 North America Airport Satisfaction Study.

“Capacity has become a huge challenge for North American airports,” said Michael Taylor, travel practice lead at J.D. Power. “Despite these difficulties, airports are responding with new technology and old-fashioned personal skills to win over harried travelers. These range from smartphone apps that tell travelers where to find a parking spot to therapy dogs — and in one case, a therapy pig — mingling with travelers to relieve stress and improve the overall airport experience.”

The 2017 study measured overall traveler satisfaction with mega, large and medium North American airports by examining six factors (in order of importance): terminal facilities; airport accessibility; security check; baggage claim; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and retail.

The study found that overall customer satisfaction scores have reached an all-time high of 749 (on a 1,000-point scale), which is up 18 points from last year’s all-time high. The improvement is driven primarily by a 25-point increase in satisfaction with security check, thanks largely to fewer TSA staffing issues this year, and gains in two factors: check-in/baggage check (+19 points) and food, beverage and retail (+15 points). Self-service bag-check kiosks and other bag-tagging technologies have played a significant role in improving the baggage-check process.

Orlando International (MCO) ranked highest in satisfaction among mega airports with a score of 778, followed by Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County (DTW) at 767 and McCarran International (LAS) at 765.

John Wayne (SNA) led the field among large airports with a score of 796. It was followed by Tampa International (TPA) at 795 and Dallas Love Field (DAL) at 790.

Sacramento International (SAC) ranked highest among medium airports with a score of 810. After SAC, Indianapolis International (IND) came in at 807 and Ted Stevens Anchorage International (ANC) at 806.

For airports, tech investment helped overcome logistical hurdles, the study showed. With nearly every airport in the country dealing with challenges of high passenger capacity and ongoing construction projects to address increased demand, technology helped to directly address these issues, the J.D. Power report noted. Many airports also found success in improving customer satisfaction through creative use of high-touch traveler outreach initiatives.

On the down side, despite the most creative efforts to address traveler frustration, major city airports that are in the thick of massive construction efforts — notably Newark Liberty International (EWR), LaGuardia (LGA), Los Angeles International (LAX) and Chicago O’Hare International (ORD) — fought the headwinds of traveler disruption and access challenges that handicapped their overall satisfaction scores.

“The trifecta of a steadily improving economy, record passenger volume and billion-dollar renovation projects unfolding in airports across the country has created a challenging environment for customer satisfaction,” Taylor added. “The fact that many airports are overcoming those challenges is incredibly instructive for the industry as it remodels and improves airport infrastructure.”

Now in its twelfth year, the study is based on responses from 34,695 North American travelers who traveled through at least one domestic airport with both departure and arrival experiences (including connecting airports) during the past three months. Travelers evaluated either a departing or arriving airport from their round-trip experience. The study was fielded from January through August 2017.