Travelers Rank the Best and Worst U.S. Airports

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Javier Brosch /

If you plan to travel to the greater New York City area this holiday season, you might want to avoid flying or avoid going through big local airports.

Three major airports that serve the area are among the worst in the U.S. for passenger satisfaction, according to the J.D. Power 2017 North America Airport Satisfaction Study. They are:

  • LaGuardia Airport, New York
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York
  • Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey

The three are among about a dozen airports that earned two out of five stars. That’s the lowest rating earned by any airport in the study.

Overall customer satisfaction at all-time high

The good news is that overall customer satisfaction with airports is at an all-time high. Airports scored 749 out of 1,000 points. That’s an 18-point increase from last year’s then-record high.

The 12th annual study polled more than 34,000 people who had recently traveled through an airport. Dozens of airports that J.D. Power classifies as medium, large or “mega” were evaluated.

J.D. Power evaluates airports based on six factors. In order of their importance to the firm, those factors are:

  1. Terminal facilities
  2. Airport accessibility
  3. Security check
  4. Baggage claim
  5. Check-in/baggage check
  6. Food, beverage and retail

Travelers rated security checks much more highly this year, and that was the biggest factor in this year’s record-breaking overall satisfaction score. J.D. Power attributes the higher approval for security checks largely to the Transportation Security Administration having fewer staffing issues this year.

Michael Taylor, travel practice lead at J.D. Power, adds:

“Capacity has become a huge challenge for North American airports, with many reporting 100% of available parking spots being filled and large airports, such as Orlando International, setting passenger volume records each month for more than three years straight. Despite these difficulties, airports are responding with new technology and old-fashioned personal skills to win over harried travelers.”

Technological improvements include upgrading phone-charging stations and internet access, which many airports have done. They also include the fact that Sacramento International Airport now offers a smartphone app that alerts travelers to open parking spaces.

Low-tech improvements that airports have adopted to help harried travelers include therapy animals. For example, you are likely to run into therapy dogs at Phoenix Sky Harbor International for passengers to pet while they wait to board, a therapy pig at San Francisco International and therapy ponies at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International.

Best and worst airports

Orlando International Airport is the only mega-size airport to receive the highest rating of five out of five stars, although several large and medium airports received this rating:

  • Orlando International Airport, Orlando, Florida (mega)
  • John Wayne Airport, Santa Ana, California (large)
  • Tampa International Airport, Tampa, Florida (large)
  • Dallas Love Field Airport, Dallas (large)
  • Nashville International Airport, Nashville, Tennessee (large)
  • Portland International Airport, Portland, Oregon (large)
  • Sacramento International Airport, Sacramento, California (medium)
  • Indianapolis International Airport, Indianapolis (medium)
  • Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, Anchorage, Alaska (medium)

Despite an overall improvement in customer satisfaction among airports as a whole, multiple airports of every size included in the study received the lowest rating of two stars:

  • John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City (mega)
  • O’Hare International Airport, Chicago (mega)
  • Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles (mega)
  • Newark Liberty International Airport, Newark, New Jersey (mega)
  • Philadelphia International Airport, Philadelphia (large)
  • LaGuardia Airport, New York City (large)
  • John Glenn Columbus International Airport, Columbus, Ohio (medium)
  • Eppley Airfield, Omaha, Nebraska (medium)
  • San Antonio International Airport, San Antonio (medium)
  • Kahului Airport, Maui, Hawaii (medium)
  • Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Cleveland (medium)
  • Bradley International Airport, Windsor Locks, Connecticut (medium)

For more ways to make your next flying experience less stressful or less expensive, check out:

I’ve been through Indianapolis International many times and find it delightful. Do you have a favorite — or least favorite — airport? Let us know below or on Facebook.

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