As any road warrior worth his rollaboard will tell you, the country’s airports are no friendlier than its skies. Ancient terminal buildings, threadbare carpets, stinky restrooms, poorly designed crowd control, sparse seating, unappetizing food concessions… the list of travelers’ gripes is a long one.
But according to J.D. Power’s newly released 2016 North America Airport Satisfaction Study, some relief may be in sight. Since last year’s study, the average traveler-satisfaction score rose from 725 (on a 1,000-point scale) to 731. Even that modest uptick is encouraging, given the 5 percent increase in airport traffic and the sky-high wait times at security checkpoints earlier this year.
The study scored airports on a combination of six factors: terminal facilities, airport accessibility, security check, baggage claim, check-in/baggage check, and terminal shopping. Based on those criteria, the 10 highest-rated larger airports were as follows:
- Portland International Airport
- Tampa International Airport
- McCarran International Airport
- Orlando International Airport
- Miami International
- San Diego International Airport
- Salt Lake City International Airport
- Washington DC Reagan
- Chicago Midway
- Denver International Airport
And the bottom 10 (worst first):
- LaGuardia Airport
- Newark Liberty International Airport
- Philadelphia International Airport
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport
- Boston Logan International Airport
- Los Angeles International Airport
- Houston Bush International
- JFK International Airport
- Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport
- Seattle-Tacoma International
According to J.D. Power, “Many airports, especially the nation’s largest airports, were never built to handle the current volume of traveler traffic, often exceeding their design limits by many millions of travelers. Yet airports are overcoming infrastructure limits by affecting the things they can influence.” That includes improved check-in technology (up 5 points since last year), more efficient security screening (up 3 points), and improved dining and shopping (up 10 points).
The study is optimistic about future airport satisfaction, noting that many larger airports are currently undergoing major improvements. That means pain in the short term, but long-term gain.
Reader Reality Check
How do the study’s findings compare with your own airport experiences?
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.