With all the attention the airlines get, from the media and from travelers, it’s easy to forget that the airport experience is central to the overall flight experience.
But as any road warrior worth his or her rollaboard will tell you, the country’s airports are no friendlier than its skies. Ancient terminal buildings, threadbare carpets, stinky restrooms, poorly designed crowd control, sparse seating, unappetizing food concessions… the list of travelers’ gripes is a long one.
But according to J.D. Power’s newly released 2017 North America Airport Satisfaction Study, some relief may be in sight. “Overall passenger satisfaction with North American airports has reached an all-time high, as airports of every size have found creative ways to address the challenges of constant construction projects and increased passenger capacity demand.”
And that’s on top of last year’s results, which showed the average traveler-satisfaction score rising from 725 in 2015 (on a 1,000-point scale) to 731. Even that modest uptick was encouraging, given the 5 percent increase in airport traffic and the sky-high wait times at security checkpoints earlier that year.
The study scored airports on a combination of six factors: terminal facilities, airport accessibility, security check, baggage claim, check-in/baggage check, and terminal shopping. Based on those criteria, the 10 highest-rated airports were as follows:
- Sacramento International Airport
- Indianapolis International Airport
- Anchorage International Airport
- Jacksonville International Airport
- Palm Beach International Airport
- John Wayne Airport
- Tampa International Airport
- Southwest Florida International Airport
- Raleigh-Durham International Airport
- Dallas Love Field
And the bottom 10 (worst first):
- LaGuardia Airport
- Newark Liberty International Airport
- Los Angeles International Airport
- Philadelphia International Airport
- Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport
- Honolulu International Airport
- JFK International Airport
- Boston Logan International Airport
- Lambert-St. Louis International Airport
It’s worth noting that the three lowest-ranked airports are currently undergoing massive construction projects, which can’t help but impede traffic and generally make navigating those airports a frustrating and time-consuming experience.
Of course, when the projects are completed, flying to or from those airports—and indeed most airports—will still be frustrating and time-consuming, just less so.
Reader Reality Check
Do you find that the airport experience has been improving lately?
After 20 years working in the travel industry, and almost that long writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.
This article first appeared on SmarterTravel.com, where Tim is Editor-at-Large.