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NEWS Last modified on December 15, 2016

Satisfaction levels rising at US airports despite traffic increase

Customer satisfaction levels at US airports continues to rise with Portland and Indianapolis among the standout performers in 2016, according to the results of a new study.

Other airports to impress in the annual JD Power Customer Satisfaction Survey include Tampa, Las Vegas-McCarran, Buffalo Niagara, Fort Myers/Southwest Florida.

JD Power notes that the increase in overall satisfaction levels is impressive – airports averaged a score of 731 out of 1,000 compared to 725 in 2015 – considering rising traffic numbers and capacity constraints at many of the country’s airports.

"Many airports, especially the nation's largest airports, were never built to handle the current volume of traveller traffic, often exceeding their design limits by many millions of travellers," said Michael Taylor, director of the airport practice at JD Power.

"Yet airports are overcoming infrastructure limits by affecting the things they can influence. Airports are successfully applying technology to improve check-in (+5 points year-over-year), security screening (+3 points) and the food, beverage and retail shopping (+10 points) experiences."

According to the 2016 study, large and medium airports have experienced year-over-year improvements in satisfaction overall, and for all factors. 

Satisfaction with security check improves the least (+1 and +8 points respectively), due in part to increased passenger volumes contributing to an 8% increase in wait times in security lines from 2015.

Short-Term Pain, Long-Term Gain

JD Power notes that many airports are undergoing major renovations and many others are set to begin major building projects.

Until these plans are completed, it warns, an increase in disruption and stress for travellers is the most likely outcome.

“There are many multi-billion 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," said Taylor.

"During construction, airports need a solid strategy for passenger flow. Much of it starts with good signage. The goal would be to prevent traveller stress and aid on-time performance.

“However, once these projects are finished, travellers should notice a tremendous positive difference in their airport experience and satisfaction should increase dramatically."

Top performers

Portland International Airport ranks highest in satisfaction among large airports for the second consecutive year, with a score of 786. Tampa International Airport (775) ranks second and Las Vegas McCarran Airport (759) ranks third.

Indianapolis International Airport ranks highest among medium airports, with a score of 794. Buffalo Niagara International Airport (791) ranks second and Fort Meyers/Southwest Florida International Airport (790) ranks third.

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