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America's Favorite Airports

J.D. Power Ranks America's Favorite Airports

Travelers are considerably more confident in their safety while flying within North American cities than they are while traveling abroad, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 North America Airport Satisfaction Study recently released.

The study finds that 47 percent of travelers report feeling “very safe” while flying within North America, compared to just 13 percent who say they feel “very safe” when traveling outside of North America.  While 30 percent feel it is “unsafe” or “very unsafe” to travel abroad, just 4 percent of travelers feel the same about traveling domestically. 

“The results clearly reflect the confidence travelers have in the ability of North American airports to secure our airways,” said Jim Gaz, senior director of travel and entertainment at J.D. Power and Associates. “Despite the extra time airport security adds to the airport process, overall, passengers feel confident in the security at North American airports due to the thoroughness of screeners and the implementation of new technologies at some airports.”

The study, now in its sixth year, measures overall airport satisfaction in three segments: large (30 million or more passengers per year), medium (10 million to less than 30 million passengers per year) and small (less than 10 million passengers per year). Eight factors are examined to determine overall customer satisfaction: airport accessibility, check-in/baggage check, security check, terminal facilities, food and beverage, retail services, baggage claim and immigration/customs control.

McCarran International (LAS) in Las Vegas ranks highest in overall passenger satisfaction among large airports, receiving the highest ratings from travelers in the areas of check-in/baggage check, security check and terminal facilities. John F. Kennedy (JFK) in New York and Philadelphia International (PHL) both follow McCarran in a tie. JFK performs particularly well in airport accessibility, while Philadelphia receives particularly high ratings in immigration/customs control and retail services.

LaGuardia International (LGA) in New York ranks highest among medium-size airports and receives the highest overall passenger satisfaction score in the 2006 study. LaGuardia receives top ratings from passengers in airport accessibility, check-in/baggage check, terminal facilities, food and beverage, retail services and baggage claim. Chicago Midway (MDW) follows LaGuardia in the segment rankings, performing well in airport accessibility, security check and terminal facilities. Baltimore Washington International (BWI) ranks third.

Among small airports, Dallas Love Field (DAL) and Houston Hobby (HOU) rank highest in a tie. Dallas Love Field receives the highest ratings in airport accessibility and baggage claim, while Houston Hobby receives top ratings in terminal facilities. John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Orange County, CA ranks third in the segment, performing particularly well in baggage claim and immigration/customs control.

“Airports are key economic development tools for the communities that own and operate them,” said Tom Henricks of Aviation Week. “By highlighting the performances of airports across North America, the study will help the airport industry meet growing customer expectations while also increasing operational efficiency.”

The study finds that wait times play a key role in customer satisfaction at airports. One area receiving low ratings and is of particular concern among passengers is the speed of baggage delivery, which averages 17.3 minutes. However, as long as baggage is delivered within 20 minutes, passengers are generally satisfied with the experience.  The check-in process receives significantly higher ratings, where travelers report waiting an average of 13 minutes to obtain a boarding pass and check baggage. Tolerance for waiting is lower for the check-in process and airports only have 15 minutes before passenger satisfaction drops below the industry average for this measure.

“Customers may be more satisfied with the check-in process because of the options available to speed up the process,” said Gaz. “For example, 16 percent of passengers go online and print out a boarding pass before arriving at the airport—up from just 5 percent in 2004. An additional 27 percent of passengers use a self-service check-in kiosk—up from 18 percent in 2004. These time-saving measures can go a long way in improving satisfaction.”

The study also finds that 47 percent of passengers purchase food and beverage at the airport—a decline from 54 percent in 2004. Food and beverage services receive the lowest ratings from customers when compared to all other drivers of satisfaction. Travelers also have particularly low satisfaction within the area of retail services offered at airports. Travelers are most displeased with the cost of both food/beverage and retail items.

“With fewer airlines offering in-flight meal service, providing passengers with a variety of food options at reasonable prices in the gate area is absolutely critical,” said Gaz. “Airports are also trying to find ways to help passengers be productive while waiting for their flights. Providing a variety of services and options, such as wireless Internet access, business centers and shopping, are key to satisfying today’s traveler.”  

The study also finds several other key airport passenger patterns:

  • Seventy-five percent of all flights were on time, 8 percent were early and 17 percent of flights were delayed. The average time for a flight delay was 59 minutes.

  • Only 20 percent of travelers indicate they purchased retail items at the airport—down from 37 percent in 2004.

  • Passengers traveling for leisure are more satisfied with their airport experience than business travelers.

  • Female travelers are more satisfied with their airport experience compared to male travelers.

The 2006 North America Airport Satisfaction Study is based on esponses from more than 9,800 passengers who took a flight between January and May of 2006. Passengers evaluated up to two different airports—their departing and arriving airport—for a total of more than 17,000 evaluations.

(Source: JD Power)