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The nation’s 10 best airports make holiday travel a little less awful

J.D. Power may be best known for rating cars, but the marketing firm also ranks customer satisfaction when it comes to airports. It recently released its North America Airport Satisfaction Study for 2016, which looked at terminal facilities, airport accessibility, security check, baggage claim, check-in/baggage check, and services like food, beverage, and retail. Airports were judged on overall satisfaction from nearly 40,000 people surveyed in North America, out of a 1,000-point scale. The surprise? The airport experience is actually getting better.

Despite the increased number of travelers, J.D. Power says satisfaction is actually improving. The study notes that while many of our airports now handle more flights and people than they were originally designed for (this is especially evident during busy travel seasons, bad weather, or unpredictable situations like the computer glitch that hindered Delta’s operations), compared to last year’s study, overall satisfaction actually increased by five points at large airports and eight points at medium airports. New technologies have also improved experiences at check-in, security, and concessions and retail.

“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,” said Michael Taylor, director of the airport practice at J.D. Power, in a release. “Yet airports are overcoming infrastructure limits by affecting the things they can influence.”

And J.D. Power expects the numbers to increase. Many airports across the U.S. are starting or in the midst of major renovations and building projects. Travelers will experience additional stress during construction, forcing them to “navigate crowded terminals.” Once these projects are completed, satisfaction ratings will go up.

“Travelers should notice a tremendous positive difference in their airport experience and satisfaction should increase dramatically,” Taylor said.

“Airports are overcoming infrastructure limits by affecting the things they can influence.”

So, which airports ranked the best in overall satisfaction? Portland International retained the title for “best large airport,” as did Tampa International and Las Vegas McCarran for second and third, respectively. Indianapolis International Airport was the “best medium airport,” beating out last year’s winner, Dallas Love Field, which dropped significantly to 14th place.

If you’re flying into Boston Logan, Chicago O’Hare, Philadelphia, Newark Liberty, and New York LaGuardia this holiday, be prepared for some dissatisfaction. These were ranked at the bottom of the list. LaGuardia is embarking on a massive redevelopment project that J.D. Power attributes to its drop to last place, but the airport’s new design could lead to better performance in the future.

Here are J.D. Power’s top-ranked airports in the United States for 2016.

Top 10 Large U.S. Airports

Top 5 Medium U.S. Airports

Tech that help take the stress out of flying

Of course, no airport can fully guarantee a great experience. Delays, missed connections, cancellations, crowded terminals, and bad food will make even the best airports a miserable place. Should you find yourself in these situations, here is what to do if your flight is delayed or canceled, and here are a few tips and gear that can help you de-stress.