J.D. Power survey finds satisfaction levels at all-time high at best U.S. airports

Orlando Airport J.D. Power Best Airports

Orlando International Airport

J.D. Power has released its North America Airport Satisfaction Study for 2017, 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 based on responses from nearly 35,000 people surveyed in North America, out of a 1,000-point scale. As with last year’s findings, airports continue to see an increase in passenger numbers.

Despite the horror stories of air travel we often see in the news, J.D. Power’s findings suggest otherwise; overall passenger satisfaction in the United States’ best airports is actually at an all-time high, up 18 points from 2016.

The surprising news is noteworthy considering many airports are now handling 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). But J.D. Power attributes the positive news to airport enhancements that are improving the passenger experience, as well as implementation of new tech and some conventional and unconventional practices.

“Capacity has become a huge challenge for North American airports, with many reporting 100 percent of available parking spots being filled and large airports, such as Orlando International, setting passenger volume records each month for more than three years straight,”said Michael Taylor, airport practice lead at J.D. Power, in a release. “Despite these difficulties, airports are responding with new technology and old-fashioned personal skills to win over harried travelers.”

“Airports are responding with new technology and old-fashioned personal skills to win over harried travelers.”

According to the study, improvements have come from fewer staffing issues at security than last year; better baggage handling and check-in, thanks to self-service kiosks that speed up the process; and upgraded airport concessions.

And technology is playing a role: The study cites Sacramento International Airport’s parking location app as one example, along with Internet access and charging stations. Some airports are using what J.D. Power terms, “high-touch traveler outreach initiatives,” like the use of therapy animals passengers can interact with.

But like last year’s study, J.D. Power notes that major construction projects will continue to affect the ratings of airports, despite best efforts to minimize traveler disruption.

“The trifecta of a steadily improving economy, record passenger volume, and billion-dollar renovation projects unfolding in airports across the country has created a challenging environment for customer satisfaction,” Taylor added. “The fact that many airports are overcoming those challenges is incredibly instructive for the industry as it remodels and improves airport infrastructure.”

So, which airports ranked the best in overall satisfaction for 2017? The study this year divided airports into three categories, and there have been some rearrangements. Orlando, Florida has been named the top “mega U.S. airport,” followed by Detroit and Las Vegas. In the “large U.S. airport” category, John Wayne in California took the top spot, beating last year’s winner, Portland International in Oregon (Portland drops to fifth). The Sacramento, California airport was named the “best medium airport,” pushing last year’s winner, Indianapolis, Indiana, to second place.

Here are J.D. Power’s top-ranked airports in the United States for 2017.

Top 10 Mega U.S. Airports

  • Orlando International Airport
  • Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport
  • McCarran International Airport
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
  • Denver International Airport
  • Charlotte/Douglas International Airport
  • Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
  • San Francisco International Airport
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Top 10 Large U.S. Airports

  • John Wayne Airport
  • Tampa International Airport
  • Dallas Love Field
  • Nashville International Airport
  • Portland International Airport
  • Austin-Bergstrom International Airport
  • William P. Hobby Airport
  • San Diego International Airport
  • Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
  • Salt Lake City International Airport

Top 10 Medium U.S. Airports

  • Sacramento International Airport
  • Indianapolis International Airport
  • Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport
  • Jacksonville International Airport
  • Palm Beach International Airport
  • Southwest Florida International Airport
  • Pittsburgh International Airport
  • Raleigh-Durham International Airport
  • Buffalo Niagara International Airport
  • Ontario International Airport

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 airport 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 reduce your stress.