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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 2015 North America Airport Satisfaction Study, which looked at terminal facilities, airport accessibility, security check, baggage claim, check-in/baggage check, and terminal shopping. Airports were judged on overall satisfaction from more than 20,000 people surveyed, out of a 1,000-point scale, and J.D. Power looked at additional areas, such as demographics, frequent-flier status, and airport arrival.

Since 2010, overall satisfaction has improved in all areas, with significant increases in how travelers feel about security, baggage claim, and shopping options. For airport operators, a satisfied customer means he or she is more likely to spend more money, according to the survey. The researchers found that check-in, security, and gate cleanliness can “make or break” airport satisfaction – no surprise there.

“Most airports have really made a tremendous shift over the past six years and are now focused on managing the end-to-end experience for their travelers,” said Rick Garlick, global travel and hospitality practice lead at J.D. Power. “It’s no longer just about getting travelers from Point A to Point B as efficiently as possible; it’s about making the airport experience enjoyable.”

Portland International was the best large airport.

However, J.D. Power found that North American airports still trail those in Asia and Europe, based on U.S. and Canadian travelers travelling internationally.

The ranking also discovered some trends among travelers. Younger travelers are generally more satisfied than those in the boomers and pre-boomers categories, while pre-boomers are less likely to spend money at an airport, even though they spend more time there by arriving early. Travelers are also getting more vocal about dissatisfaction.

So, which airports ranked the best in overall satisfaction? Portland International was the best large airport, while Dallas Love Field and Southwest Florida International tied for medium airports. Miami International and Dallas Love Field were also the most improved, with the latter having recently gone through a complete modernization program.

If you’re flying into Philadelphia, Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles, New York LaGuardia, and Newark Liberty this holiday, be prepared for some dissatisfaction. These were ranked at the bottom of the list.

Here are J.D. Power’s top-ranked airports in North America.

Top 10 Large Airports

Top 10 Medium 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 are a few tips and gear that can help you de-stress.