Despite air travel woes, people have been pretty happy with airports, study finds: Here’s why

Interior of an airport lobby that's open and airy with people milling around

Once I know there’s a future journey involving an airport terminal, my first ideas are normally about long security lines, an exhausting wait at baggage claim, and the prospect that there could also be an unruly passenger or two on my flight. Briefly, it’s not an expertise I usually sit up for — no less than not as a lot because the vacation spot itself. Nonetheless, a brand new examine reveals that vacationers as we speak are literally fairly proud of their airport experiences total. 

Sure, in a shocking flip of occasions, evidently North American airports have defied the chances, managing to raise total passenger satisfaction regardless of going through a slew of points. The J.D. Power 2023 North America Airport Satisfaction Study reveals a rise in satisfaction, showcasing the resilience of airport administration within the face of record-high passenger volumes, pilot shortages, and unpredictable climate disruptions.

Airport terminal interior shopping area

Buyer satisfaction and spending at airports soars within the face of ongoing challenges

The 2023 North America Airport Satisfaction Research, now in its 18th 12 months, gauges traveler satisfaction at mega, giant, and medium airports, specializing in key elements like terminal services and baggage declare. Primarily based on 27,147 surveys from U.S. or Canadian residents who traveled inside the previous 30 days, the examine spans departure and arrival experiences, together with connecting airports, and was performed from August 2022 to July 2023.

In a press launch, Michael Taylor, managing director of journey, hospitality, and retail at J.D. Energy, emphasizes that the exceptional enhancements seen within the 2023 examine stem from main capital investments made by airports lately. “It has not been a simple 12 months for North American airports, however main capital enhancements they’ve made over the past a number of years and new investments in getting meals, beverage and retail operations again up and operating at full capability have helped them handle the crush of passengers,” Taylor explains.

The give attention to revamping terminal services, upgrading meals and beverage providers, and streamlining baggage declare processes has not solely appeased passengers but additionally contributed to airports’ capacity to handle the surge in vacationers.

Curiously, the examine attracts a direct correlation between passenger satisfaction and spending habits. The passengers who price their airport expertise an ideal 10 spend a median of $44 within the terminal throughout every go to, whereas their much less content material counterparts spend about $15 much less. In 2023, passengers, on common, elevated their terminal spending by $3.47 in comparison with 2022, which, as Taylor factors out, highlights the significance of a optimistic airport expertise in driving income. 

“Whereas airports are doing an excellent job dealing with the present points, there’s nonetheless extra they might do to enhance passenger expertise whereas additionally enhancing their very own backside traces,” Taylor says. “Joyful passengers spend a lot more money at the airport, so ongoing efforts to unfold passenger volumes all through the day and ship superior service in any respect buyer touchpoints will likely be vital.”

The back of a passenger on a moving sidewalk in an airport

Which airports rank highest in buyer satisfaction?

The examine ranks airports based mostly on passenger satisfaction throughout totally different classes. Mega airports, catering to 33 million or extra passengers yearly; giant airports, with 10 to 32.9 million; and medium airports, with 4.5 to 9.9 million, are included. 

Listed here are the highest contenders from every division and their scores out of 1,000 potential factors:

  • Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport takes the lead amongst mega airports, scoring 800. 
  • Tampa Worldwide Airport secures the highest spot amongst giant airports for the second consecutive 12 months, boasting a rating of 832. 
  • Indianapolis Worldwide Airport, with a rating of 843, maintains its reign on the high of medium airports.

One standout success story that J.D. Energy uncovered is the exceptional turnaround at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. On the backside of the record by way of passenger satisfaction in 2019, LaGuardia’s complete development and redevelopment tasks have led to an increase within the ranks — the airport is now on par with the typical for giant airports. LaGuardia’s success vividly illustrates the optimistic affect of capital enhancements on passenger circulation, parking, and terminal services.

Whereas the examine undoubtedly paints an image of improved satisfaction, it’s additionally an acknowledgment that airport challenges persist. Crowding stays a big concern, with 60% of vacationers reporting experiencing extreme or average crowding inside terminals, a 2-percentage-point enhance from 2023. As Taylor defined, the examine underscores the necessity for continued efforts to reinforce passenger expertise and handle crowd ranges to make sure airports stay pleasing for all vacationers.

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