Airport satisfaction soars in new J.D. Power study

December 16, 2015
Charisse Jones, USA TODAY

Spending time at the airport isn’t quite the chore that it used to be.

That’s according to the J.D. Power 2015 North American Airport Study that was released Wednesday morning.

Overall passenger satisfaction with the airport experience averaged 725 points on a 1,000-point scale, a significant uptick from the average of 690 points five years ago when the survey was last taken.

The survey, which looked at large and medium-sized portals in North America, assessed how pleased travelers were with a variety of factors including terminals, airport accessibility, screening checkpoints, baggage claim, the check in process — including checking luggage — and airport shopping.

"There's definitely been a cultural shift in the past handful of years where airports are beginning to take more ownership, and care, of the end to end experience of passengers,'' says Jeff Conklin, vice president of J.D. Power's utility and infrastructure practice. "Many of these services they don’t directly own or operate ... They're beginning to do more things like putting in performance standards in contracts for retail, and cleaning even for baggage handling.''

Passengers’ overall satisfaction with an airport hinges most on terminal facilities, from stores to restrooms to gate-side seating. And, in recent years, many airports have upped their game, replacing fast food stops with high-end restaurants, and adding amenities ranging from chic wine bars to mini spas. Terminal facilities in this year's study got an average score of 728, up from 687 five years ago, Conklin said.

Being able to check in and check luggage quickly is also important. Those who spent five minutes or less on those tasks had an average satisfaction score of 797. But their satisfaction with those processes dropped to 773 when they took an additional one to five minutes.

And satisfaction with security plummets to an average score of 690 when screening takes between 11 and 20 minutes, vs. the score of 779 among those who got through the checkpoints within ten minutes.

A clean space to wait to board the plane is also critical. When the gate area is tidy, satisfaction with the terminal gets a score of 745, but a dirty space sends satisfaction tumbling to 555 points.

"What consumers are looking at is not just that trash is picked up,'' Conklin says, "but carpets are relatively unstained, seat cushions are clean, unstained, not ripped ... It’s the whole atmosphere, the comfort and cleanliness of the gate areas. So avoiding something that comes across as unkempt is a really key differentiator.’’

A gate-side score can rise by over 130 points if announcements are clear, and if there are sufficient seats and electrical outlets.

Medium-sized portals tended to be more pleasing than their larger peers, with an average score of 752 points vs. 719.

Among the biggest airports, Portland International came out on top with 791 points, while Newark Liberty was at the bottom with an average score of 646. Among medium-sized airports, Dallas Love Field and Southwest Florida International were tied for No. 1 with 792 points and Cleveland Hopkins International Airport was at the bottom with 698 points.

"What we find is when they can provide that high level of consistent experience, they can get very satisfied and even delighted customers,'' Conklin says, "and that group of travelers is going to spend more money at the airport complex buying merchandise food and beverages. So there’s definitely a payoff.''

Overall satisfaction rankings: Large airports
(Based on a 1,000-point scale)

1. Portland International Airport, 791 points
2. Tampa International Airport, 776
3. Las Vegas McCarran International Airport, 759
4. Orlando International Airport, 756
5. Salt Lake City International Airport, 748
6. Denver International Airport, 746
7. San Diego International Airport, 743
8. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, 742
9. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, 738
10. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, 736
11. Charlotte Douglas International Airport, 734
11. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, 734
13. Chicago Midway International Airport, 733
14. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, 730
15. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, 726
16. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, 725
17. San Francisco International Airport, 721
18. Miami International Airport, 720
19. Toronto Pearson International Airport, 719
20. Washington Dulles International Airport, 718
21. Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport, 714
22. Baltimore/Washington International Airport, 712
22. Honolulu International Airport, 712
24. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, 711
25. John F. Kennedy International Airport, 697
25. Boston Logan International Airport, 697
27. Philadelphia International Airport, 691
28. Chicago O'Hare International Airport, 680
29. Los Angeles International Airport, 670
30. LaGuardia Airport, 655
31. Newark Liberty International Airport, 646

Large airport average: 719

Source: J.D. Power 2015 North America Airport Satisfaction Study

Overall satisfaction rankings: Medium airports
(Based on a 1,000-point scale)

1. Dallas Love Field, 792 points
1. Southwest Florida International Airport, 792
3. Indianapolis International Airport, 789
3. Raleigh-Durham International Airport, 789
5. Jacksonville International Airport, 787
6. Nashville International Airport, 782
7. John Wayne Airport, 777
8. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, 773
9. Vancouver International Airport, 770
10. Pittsburgh International Airport, 769
11. Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, 766
11. Palm Beach International Airport, 766
13. LA/Ontario International Airport, 763
14. Buffalo Niagara International Airport, 760
14. Eppley Airfield, 760
16. General Mitchell International Airport, 756
17. Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, 754
18. Sacramento International Airport, 753
19. Port Columbus International Airport, 749
19. San Antonio International Airport, 749
21. Albuquerque International Sunport, 745
22. Bradley International Airport, 744
23. San Jose International Airport, 743
24. Kansas City International Airport, 742
25. Calgary International Airport, 739
26. Oakland International Airport, 731
27. Bob Hope Airport, 726
28. Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, 723
29. Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, 716
30. Montreal Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, 710
31. Kahului Airport, 705
32. William P. Hobby Airport, 700
33. Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, 698

Medium airport average: 752

Source: J.D. Power 2015 North America Airport Satisfaction Study



Visit our airport system websites