US airports are improving, despite increasing passenger numbers, according to the J.D. Power 2016 North America Airport Satisfaction Study.
Passenger volume is rising, but so is satisfaction with the airport experience, even though many airports are handling far more travelers than they were built to accommodate, according to the Satisfaction Study.
The annual survey found a 5-point increase in overall traveller satisfaction with large airports compared to 2015 (to 731 on a 1,000-point scale), and an 8-point rise for medium-sized airports, which received an average satisfaction score of 760.
Portland International Airport scored the highest in satisfaction among large U.S. airports for the second consecutive year, with a score of 786, followed by Tampa International Airport (775) and Las Vegas McCarran Airport (759). Indianapolis International Airport was the top-ranked medium-sized airport with a score of 794; Buffalo Niagara International Airport (791) was second, and Fort Meyers/Southwest Florida International Airport (790) was third.
The improvements in satisfaction scores came as airports are experiencing annual increases in traveller volume of 5 to 6 percent.
“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 travellers,” says Michael Taylor, director of the airport practice at J.D. Power. “Yet airports are overcoming infrastructure limits by affecting the things they can influence. Airports are successfully applying technology to improve check-in (up 5 points in traveller satisfaction in 2016), security screening (up 3 points) and the food, beverage and retail shopping (up 10 points) experiences.”
Taylor suggested that big jump in satisfaction with airport dining may be due to the trend toward offering a broader range of food options, particularly local cuisine — Cuban and Caribbean restaurants at Miami International Airport, for example, and barbecue at Houston Hobby Airport. “Offering local flavor and local design elements unique to the area provide a ‘sense of place,’” says Taylor.
Some of the busiest airports in the U.S. have major infrastructure projects in progress or slated for the next few years that could affect traveller satisfaction, Taylor noted. For example, the ongoing reconstruction of New York’s LaGuardia International Airport was linked to a 6-percent decline in J.D. Powers’ satisfaction score in 2016. On the other hand, the completion of the redesign of Los Angeles International Airport’s Terminal 2 in February 2016 was credited with a 32-point increase in LAX’s satisfaction score.
“There are many multibillion dollar renovation projects on the books across the continent. This heavy construction will make it difficult for travellers to access the airport and, once there, it will likely make it even more difficult to navigate the crowded terminals,” says Taylor. “However, once these projects are finished, travellers should notice a tremendous positive difference in their airport experience and satisfaction should increase dramatically.”