Ranked: The Best And Worst Airports In America

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By all accounts, air travel hasn’t been easy lately, with crowded planes, flight delays, lost luggage and myriad other headaches. But what about the airport experience?

J.D. Power has just released its 17th annual list of the best and worst airports in North America. The group’s Airport Satisfaction Study ranks the best and worst airports in three categories—Mega, Large and Medium—based on six factors including terminal facilities, airport arrival/departure, baggage claim, security check, check-in/baggage check and food/beverage/retail. The study also looks at the state of passenger satisfaction today.

So what are the winners—and the losers?

In the Mega airports category, Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) ranks first. “Finishing internal construction projects helped MSP. They are #1 among Megas in terminal facilities, TSA, airport access and baggage claim. In a year that saw dramatic passenger volume increases, MSP handled the surge better than most,” says Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power.

At the bottom of the Mega airport list: Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). What went wrong? “Not so much has ‘gone wrong’ as is ‘hasn’t kept up,’” says Taylor. “EWR is being swamped by passenger volume and much of its infrastructure just hasn’t kept pace with that demand. It’s located in a heavy automobile traffic spot and that doesn’t help its access scores—and if passengers are stressed getting to the airport, they tend to stay stressed throughout the whole experience.”

In the Large airports category, Tampa International Airport (TPA) is the winner. It’s the first time TPA has made to the top spot—and it got there thanks to strong scores across all factors. “They’ve spent years developing and finishing airport improvements (such as new food/beverage/retail) and developing space for passengers to enjoy those attributes,” says Taylor. “The ability for an airport to provide relaxation on premises is a real premium and TPA has been providing that better than most airports this past year.”

On the opposite end is Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), which was named the worst Large airport in America. The problem: infrastructure. “PHL’s design [approach] has been [to] ‘add on’ to existing structures for the main terminal, and the front end of the airport just isn’t big enough to support the number of passengers who are going through TSA,” says Taylor. “Once through, passengers find the marketplace of food/beverage/retail fairly appealing.”

Coming in at the top of the Medium airport list: Indianapolis International Airport (IND), which has been ranked near the top for three of the last four years (during Covid, J.D. Power didn’t declare a Medium category winner). “IND is one of the best-designed terminals in the U.S. (New Orleans MSY is another),” says Taylor. “On top of its easy access, its ability handle passenger traffic flow has helped it stay on top. IND really stepped up its food/beverage/retail services coming out of Covid as well.”

The worst Medium airport in America: Hollywood Burbank (BUR). “BUR is a victim of its own success,” says Taylor, who points out that passenger volume has been running more than 5 to 6% above 2019 levels, while most airports are still down 9% versus 2019. “As we see in almost every airport, increases in passenger volumes create decreases in overall satisfaction,” says Taylor. “BUR has had a tremendous rebound in passenger volume and those numbers make for an overcrowded terminal.”

Besides ranking the airports, J.D. Power’s Airport Satisfaction Study talks about air traveler satisfaction today. The bad news: Overall satisfaction is down 25 points (on a 1,000-point scale) this year. The problems: fewer flights, more crowded terminals and sparse food and beverage offerings.

“The combination of pent-up demand for air travel, the nationwide labor shortage and steadily rising prices on everything from jet fuel to a bottle of water have created a scenario in which airports are extremely crowded and passengers are increasingly frustrated—and it is likely to continue through 2023,” says Taylor.

So where are we headed? “Unfortunately, things are likely to get worse before they get better,” says Taylor. “Travel demand doesn’t appear to be easing up and that means more passengers accessing the airport. The reduced number of aircraft flying with a greater percentage of seats filled will mean more crowding at gates when people are flying.”

Also contributing to the woes: “The labor shortage will continue to curtail the availability of food/beverage/retail accessibility at the airport… and inflation will also restrict satisfaction with those activities at the airport.”

The only good news, according to Taylor: “Increasing demand for travel is a problem the industry wants to have. What’s needed now is better infrastructure development and an end to the labor shortage.”

Read on to see the lists of the best and worst airports in America; you can also get more details on J.D. Power’s survey here.

Ranked: Mega Airports

Here is J.D. Power’s list of mega airports—from best to worst. Mega airports are defined as those with 33 million or more passengers per year.

1. Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport

2. San Francisco International Airport

3. (tie) Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport

3. (tie) John F. Kennedy International Airport (New York City)

5. Harry Reid International Airport (Paradise, Nevada)

6. Orlando International Airport

7. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

8. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

9. Miami International Airport

10. Charlotte Douglas International Airport

11. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

12. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

13. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

14. Denver International Airport

15. George Bush Intercontinental Airport (Houston, Texas)

16. Toronto Pearson International Airport

17. Boston Logan International Airport

18. Los Angeles International Airport

19. O'Hare International Airport

20. Newark Liberty International Airport

Ranked: Large Airports

J.D. Power’s list of large airports considers facilities that have 10 to 32.9 million passengers per year.

1. Tampa International Airport

2. John Wayne Airport, Orange County

3. Dallas Love Field

4. Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport

5. Raleigh-Durham International Airport

6. Salt Lake City International Airport

7. Portland International Airport

8. William P. Hobby Airport

9. San Antonio International Airport

10. Sacramento International Airport

11. Vancouver International Airport

12. Nashville International Airport

13. Washington Dulles International Airport

14. San Diego International Airport

15. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport

16. Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport

17. Calgary International Airport

18. Oakland International Airport

19. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

20. Chicago Midway International Airport

21. San Jose International Airport

22. Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport

23. St. Louis Lambert International Airport

24. LaGuardia Airport (New York City)

25. Kansas City International Airport

26. Honolulu International Airport

27. Philadelphia International Airport

Ranked: Medium Airports

Medium airports accommodate 4.5 to 9.9 million passengers per year.

1. Indianapolis International Airport

2. Pittsburgh International Airport

3. Jacksonville International Airport

4. Southwest Florida International Airport

5. General Mitchell International Airport (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

6. Albuquerque International

7. Sunport Palm Beach International Airport

8. Ontario International Airport

9. Buffalo Niagara International Airport

10. Ottawa/Macdonald-Cartier International Airport

11. John Glenn Columbus International Airport

12. Edmonton International Airport

13. Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport

14. Eppley Airfield (Omaha, Nebraska)

15. Bradley International Airport (Hartford, Connecticut)

16. Cleveland Hopkins International Airport

17. Kahului Airport (Hawaii)

18. Hollywood Burbank Airport


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