Somehow, Airport Passenger Satisfaction Is Up in 2023

Faced with a potentially crippling combination of record-high passenger volumes, an ongoing pilot shortage that shrank the number of available flights and countless weather delays and cancelations, overall airport passenger satisfaction improved in 2023. The “J.D. Power 2023 North America Airport Satisfaction Study” found that overall satisfaction improved three points (on a 1,000-point scale) over 2022, driven by improvements in three factors: Terminal facilities; food, beverage and retail service; and baggage claim.

“It has not been an easy year for North American airports, but major capital improvements they’ve made over the last several years and new investments in getting food, beverage and retail operations back up and running at full capacity have helped them manage the crush of passengers,” said Michael Taylor, managing director of travel, hospitality and retail at J.D. Power. “While airports are doing a good job coping with the current issues, there is still more they could do to improve passenger experience while also improving their own bottom lines. Happy passengers spend a lot more money at the airport, so ongoing efforts to spread passenger volumes throughout the day and deliver superior service at all customer touchpoints will be critical.”

The study measures overall traveler satisfaction with mega, large and medium North American airports by examining six factors (in order of importance): Terminal facilities; airport arrival/departure; baggage claim; security check; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and retail. Mega airports are defined as those with 33 million or more passengers per year; large airports with 10 to 32.9 million passengers per year; and medium airports with 4.5 to 9.9 million passengers per year.

Here are key highlights of the study:

  • Overall customer satisfaction with North American airports increases three points to 780 this year despite record passenger volume, crowded terminals and a barrage of delays and cancelations. Top-performing airports in the study all saw substantial gains in terminal facilities; F&B and retail service; and baggage claim.
  • There is a direct correlation between overall passenger satisfaction and spending at the airport. Passengers classified as “delighted,” meaning they rate their airport experience as 10 out of 10, spend an average of $44 in the terminal, while those classified as disappointed (1 to 5 out of 10) spend just $29. This year, airport passengers spent an average of $3.47 more than last year in the terminal.
  • Many of the top-performing airports in the study have one thing in common: Recently completed construction and redevelopment projects that have improved passenger flow, parking and terminal facilities. Nowhere is the positive effect of capital improvement clearer than in New York’s LaGuardia Airport, which has climbed from dead last in passenger satisfaction in 2019 to reach the large airport segment average this year.
  • While North American airports have managed to keep passengers reasonably satisfied throughout a challenging year, overall satisfaction is still down from the highs seen in 2020 when passenger volumes were lower due to the pandemic. More than half (60 percent) of travelers say they experienced severe or moderate crowding within the terminal, a 2-percentage-point increase from last year.

Study Rankings

  • Mega airports: Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport ranks highest in passenger satisfaction with a score of 800. Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (796) ranks second and Harry Reid International Airport (787) ranks third.
  • Large airports: Tampa International Airport ranks highest among large airports for a second consecutive year, with a score of 832. John Wayne Airport in Orange County, CA (829) ranks second and Salt Lake City International Airport (825) ranks third.
  • Medium airports: Indianapolis International Airport ranks highest for a second consecutive year, with a score of 843. Southwest Florida International Airport (839) ranks second and Ontario International Airport (834) ranks third.

Now in its 18th year, the study is based on 27,147 completed surveys from U.S. or Canadian residents who traveled through at least one U.S. or Canadian airport and covers both departure and arrival experiences (including connecting airports) during the past 30 days. Travelers evaluated either a departing or arriving airport from their round-trip experience. The study was fielded from August 2022 through July 2023.

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