Guess which local airport has been named one of the best in the country
Dec 17, 2015
Jensen Werley, Reporter
Jacksonville Business Journal

Jacksonville International Airport is considered one of the best in the country — ranked in the top five for airports of its size, according to a new study from J.D. Power and Associates.

Ranked fifth, JAX scored 787 out of 1,000 points in the North America Airport Satisfaction Study, just five points by top medium airport Dallas Love Field.

As the first and last impression of Jacksonville, business leaders have gone on record emphasizing the importance of the Jacksonville International Airport as an economic driver — even going so far as to give CEO Steve Grossman an international business development award Wednesday.

“It's confirmation of what we know and what has been shown over the last three to five years through our [airport service quality] ratings and rankings,” Grossman told the Business Journal, referring to an industry survey program JAX participates in. “It further shows our dedication to customer service and really caring about the passengers and everyone who uses the terminal complex.”

The study is based on responses from more than 21,000 travelers who have gone through at least one domestic or international airport with both departure and arrival experiences from July to October, according to a news release from J.D. Power. Medium-sized airports at 1.9 million to 7 million enplanements per year and all airports had to have a minimum of 100 evaluations to qualify. Rankings were based on an index score that looked at terminal facilities, accessibility, security check, baggage claim, the check-in experience and terminal shopping, in order of importance.

In some areas, particularly security check, Jacksonville was one of the best: ranked No. 2, only behind Raleigh-Durham, said Jeff Conklin, vice president of utility and infrastructure practice at J.D. Power.

“It's all about the time it takes,” Conklin said. “Making sure there is an adequate set of lanes open and available for traffice.... Getting into an airport and flying is stressful. If you can make any touch points smoother and more effective, it removes stress. Travelers in Jacksonville know they're going to get efficient treatment that removes that level of anxiety, and security checkpoint is arguably the most stressful part of the journey.”

The success of the checkpoint comes down to the people who run it, Grossman said.

“The people who work at the checkpoint are TSA folks,” he said. “The secret is they live in Jacksonville. The term 'southern hospitality' has meaning. It's one of the reasons we're all ranked as highly as we are throughout. It's the friendliness and agents who care about what they do and care about the people they're doing it to.”

Other criteria, like the complimentary Wi-Fi, modern terminal design and terminal shopping experience also resonated highly with Jacksonville travelers, Conklin said.

To that end, frequent flyers are in for a treat: Grossman said that per their contract, the two largest concessions operators will be renovating their spaces, either putting in some new concepts or rehabbing existing shops over the next year or so.

To be ranked so highly is no easy feat, Conklin said. The airport needs to be providing the top customer service at all times.

“They've got to continually and consistently excel at providing a great end-to-end experience for the traveller,” he said. “Jacksonville comes across as an accessible airport with a good process to get checked-in and get through security, and the terminal itself comes across as very spacious and modern, comfortable and clean.”