Aviation Media Logo

NEWS Last modified on March 6, 2017

New study outlines improvements Americans want to see at US airports

As airports plan future improvements to enhance the air travel experience, they may want to look at what’s outside their front doors, says HNTB. 

For a new found that more than nine in 10 Americans (93%) believe airport terminals could be better connected to the region’s ground transportation and transit networks.

The survey, Airport Terminals -2017 found that four in five (84%) Americans would use rail transit if it could get them to the airport and back more efficiently than by car.

The survey also found that more than four in five believe parking (81%) and drop-off or pick-up curbs (81%) have either stayed the same or got worse in the past 10 years.

“Ground access to the airport terminal, the movement of automobile traffic, passenger pick-up/drop off and parking are factors that increasingly determine the quality of the air travel experience,” notes Laddie Irion, HNTB’s national aviation sector market leader and senior vice president.
LAX kerb
“The interest in public transit access to airports is very strong. In planning for improvements, airport authorities should consider partnering with transit agencies to create the public transportation access that travellers seek.

"They should also recognise that facilitating ease of movement in and around airport terminals along with the amenities found within the terminal building are factors that directly affect the quality and satisfaction of the air travellers’ experience.”

Waiting equates to hating when it comes to airports

According to the survey, nearly all (97%) Americans find something frustrating about air travel, and a third (34%) feel waiting in lines at the airport is the most unsatisfying aspect.

However, other than lines, there are relatively low levels of frustrations about many aspects of air travel.

Airport security in particular seems to cause the most pain points. More than three in five (62%) feel the security process at their most frequently used airport is time consuming.
And again, it’s waiting that causes the most irritation with 28% of air travellers reporting that time spent in line is the part of the security checkpoint process they generally dislike most.

Having to get their belongings ready for security without assistance (21%) or having to go through body-scanning X-ray or pat down (15%) rounded out the top three.

“We are all well aware of the need for robust airport security, but there are opportunities to make the process more comfortable, such as flooring that is comfortable for passengers without shoes, soothing and comfortable lighting, and creating a pleasant area for passengers to re-compose themselves after completing the screening process,” says Irion.

Biggest desired areas of improvement

Among those who feel something needs to be improved at airports, more than three in five (61%) believe TSA security check-in points need to be revamped.

And nearly two in five (37%) of Americans who travel by air believe upgrading security should be airports’ top priority.

Other areas which need attention include: passenger check-in (46%), departure gate lobbies (37%), drop-off or pick-up kerbs (36%) and parking (33%).
418ac170f868f8867e5fdb9197ef165e L
Technology’s Role

Evolving technology may be the answer for some. GPS-enabled tags embedded in luggage that link it to the owner appeal to 45% of Americans. 

Another 43% believe advanced technologies allowing pilots and air traffic controllers to more effectively manage the reliability of flight schedules would improve the travel experience. 

More than a third (34%) believe technology that helps with self-serve bag tagging and the check-in process would benefit them as an air traveller and improve their experience. And one-third would appreciate mobile apps allowing them to order and pay for in-flight food which would be waiting for them on the aircraft.


Perhaps most worrying for airports is the fact that according to the study, most Americans do not look forward to their time at the airport.

Indeed, the majority (56%) would describe airport terminals as stressful, and more than two in five feel they are frustrating (42%) or exhausting (42%).

On the positive side, one in five (21%) describe airport terminals as efficient; 18% say they are fun; 11% relaxing; and 7% say they are luxurious.

“In this day and age, air travellers confront never-before-seen challenges, but with a comprehensive focus on customer experience, airport authorities have the opportunity to effectively meet today’s needs in a manner that also anticipates the future,” says Irion.

About the survey

HNTB’s America THINKS survey, 'Airport Terminals-2017', polled a random nationwide sample of 1,054 Americans ages 18+ between December 1-8, 2016. 

HNTB Corporation is an employee-owned infrastructure solutions firm serving public and private owners and contractors. For more information, visit www.hntb.com.

Share on social media


Joe Bates

Written by


Article Options

Latest from Joe Bates

Related items

Get the Airport World Newsletter!

Follow us on Twitter

8802 peoples are following airportworldmag