Although technology has revolutionized air travel during the past decade, passenger satisfaction with airports continues to lag behind that of other aspects of the travel industry, largely because passenger expectations of basic needs—such as prompt baggage delivery, airport comfort and ease of navigating the airport—are not being met consistently, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 North America Airport Satisfaction Study SM.

The study measures overall airport satisfaction in three segments: large (30 million or more passengers per year), medium (10 million to 30 million passengers per year) and small (fewer than 10 million passengers per year). Six factors—assessed through 27 specific attributes—are examined to determine overall customer satisfaction: airport accessibility; baggage claim; check-in/baggage check process; terminal facilities; security check; and food and retail services.

Overall passenger satisfaction with the airport experience averages 690 on a 1,000-point scale in 2010, which is an improvement from 675 in 2008. However, satisfaction with airports in 2010 is considerably lower than satisfaction with hotels (756, on average) and rental cars (733, on average).

Technology has helped drive efficiencies for airports and increase convenience for travelers—for example, wireless Internet access, parking lot management systems and online check-in. However, the study finds that the areas with greatest impact on overall passenger satisfaction are speed of baggage delivery; ease of check- in and baggage check; comfort in airport terminals; and the amount of time required for security check. For many passengers, basic needs such as seating comfort and ease of moving through the airport are not consistently being met.

“As much as Internet access may be a fun diversion or enable productivity for passengers, getting passengers in and out of the airport easily and efficiently is of utmost importance,” said Stuart Greif, vice president and general manager of the global hospitality and travel practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “Airports can best facilitate passenger progress and improve satisfaction by focusing on key elements such as the clarity of airport signage, facilitating quick and accurate delivery of baggage and partnering with the TSA to reduce security check wait times.”

The study finds that providing high levels of airport passenger satisfaction has a strong positive impact on retail spending. Among passengers who are “disappointed” with their airport experience (providing ratings of one to five on a 10-point scale), airport retail spending averages $14.12. However, passengers who are “delighted” with their airport experience (providing ratings of 10 on a 10-point scale), spend an average of $20.55 on airport retail purchases—45 percent more than do “disappointed” passengers. Only a small percentage of passengers—9 percent—are “delighted” with their airport experience.

Large Airports

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County (DTW) ranks highest in overall customer satisfaction among large airports and performs particularly well in the terminal facilities and baggage claim factors. Denver International (DEN) and Minneapolis/St. Paul International (MSP), in a tie, closely follow DTW in the segment rankings. DEN performs particularly well in the airport accessibility factor.

Medium Airports

Kansas City International (MCI) ranks highest among medium airports, and performs particularly well in three of the six factors: airport accessibility, check-in/baggage check and security check. Following MCI in the segment rankings are Portland International (PDX) and Tampa International (TPA). PDX performs particularly well in the food and retail services factor while TPA performs particularly well in the terminal facilities and baggage claim factors.

Small Airports

Among small airports, Indianapolis International Airport (IND) ranks highest and performs particularly well in the check-in/baggage check, security check and terminal facilities factors. Following IND in the segment rankings are Fort Myers/Southwest Florida International (RSW) and Tucson International (TUS).

The 2010 North America Airport Satisfaction Study is based on responses from more than 12,100 passengers who took a round-trip flight between January and December 2009. Passengers evaluated their departing and arriving airports, and the study includes a total of more than 24, 200 evaluations. The study was fielded between January and December 2009. For more information, view airport ratings or read an article on JDPower.com.

Source: J.D. Power and Associates 2009 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index StudySM and J.D. Power and Associates 2009 Rental Car Satisfaction StudySM