Airport Satisfaction Is up, but Volume Is Down

Traveler satisfaction with the airport experience is up, according to the J.D. Power 2020 North America Airport Satisfaction Study.

Up sharply, in fact. And that’s a good thing, right?

Not so fast.

The respected firm noted the boost in satisfaction – a record-high score of 784 out of a 1,000-points scale – came at the expense of a significant reduction in volume since the coronavirus pandemic hit more than seven months ago.

Travelers’ ability to easily get through security checkpoints and baggage claim, and the speed with which they can obtain food and retail services at checkout, were all because of decreased volume thus leading to a better airport experience.

“Over the Labor Day weekend, airport passenger volumes climbed to 40 percent of year-ago levels as travelers slowly started to trickle back onto airplanes,” Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power, said in a statement.

“Compared to the pre-COVID-19 environment when most airports were running significantly over capacity, the lack of crowds and long lines is actually creating a very convenient experience for travelers right now. Obviously, this lower passenger volume is not sustainable for most airports. Airport managers are doing all they can to provide a safe and clean environment to facilitate a rebound in travel.”

The record score of 784 was up 22 points from a year ago. Passengers also have provided airport terminals with high marks for cleanliness, less crowding and lower noise levels—all of which are positively affected by record-low passenger volumes.

The common bond among top-ranked airports such as Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Dallas Love Field and Indianapolis International Airport was an open, airy experience that feels more like a well-designed shopping mall than an airport. These airports also do a good job of conveying local flavor in their passenger experience, from food and beverage offerings that feature regional specialties to design cues that evoke local color.

Many passengers also applauded airport response to COVID-19.

The 2020 North America Airport Satisfaction 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 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.

The study was fielded from August 2019 through July 2020.

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