Improved Airport Experience Drives Increased Traveler Spending, J.D. Power 2015 North America Airport Study Finds
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Portland International, Dallas Love Field, Southwest Florida International Rank Highest in Airport Satisfaction
WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.: 16 December 2015 — The airport industry has undergone a major cultural shift, as traveler experience has become the focal point of its strategy to improve overall satisfaction, according to the J.D. Power 2015 North America Airport Satisfaction StudySM released today.
Now in its 10th year, the study measures overall traveler satisfaction with large- and medium-sized North American airports by examining six factors (in order of importance): terminal facilities; airport accessibility; security check; baggage claim; check-in/baggage check; and terminal shopping. In this year’s study, overall traveler satisfaction with the airport experience averages 725 (on a 1,000-point scale), an improvement from 690 in 2010, which was the last time the study was conducted. Overall satisfaction with large airports is 719, up from 665 in 2010, and satisfaction with medium airports is 752, a 69-point increase.
“Most airports have really made a tremendous shift over the past six years and are now focused on managing the end-to-end experience for their travelers,” said Rick Garlick, global travel and hospitality practice lead at J.D. Power. “It’s no longer just about getting travelers from Point A to Point B as efficiently as possible; it’s about making the airport experience enjoyable.”
A key element of the cultural shift is that airports are placing an emphasis on terminal facilities, which have the greatest impact on overall airport satisfaction. Terminal facilities include everything from restaurants and retail operations to restrooms and seating near gates.
“Travelers now are substantially more satisfied with retail experiences in their airport,” said Jeff Conklin, vice president of the utility & infrastructure practice at J.D. Power. “Airports that have responded to this demand by offering a variety of food, beverage, merchandise, and other attractive services and amenities are realizing significant gains in overall customer satisfaction.”
Following are some of the key findings in the 2015 study:
- Check-in and Security Line Make or Break Airport Satisfaction: Satisfaction with the check-in/baggage check experience among travelers that spend no more than 5 minutes checking in at the airport, including checking their bags, is 797. When the check-in process takes between 6 and 10 minutes, satisfaction is 773. When the security process takes between 11 and 20 minutes, satisfaction with the security check process is 690, significantly lower than the 779 among travelers who move through security within 10 minutes.
- Younger Travelers More Satisfied; Spend More Money. Among the generational groups, satisfaction is highest among Millennials and travelers in Gen X, who spend substantially more on food, beverages, merchandise and services in the airport than Boomers and Pre-Boomers. Satisfaction is highest among Millennials (750), followed by Gen X (725), Boomers (709) and Pre-Boomers (713). Additionally, Millennials and those in Gen X, who each spend fewer than 50 minutes in the terminal, spend an average of $25 and $18, respectively, in the airport, compared with Boomers and Pre-Boomers, who spend an average of just $10 and $7, with the latter two groups spending an hour or more in the terminal.
- Gate Cleanliness Is Critical: A clean gate area boosts satisfaction with terminal facilities to 745, while a messy gate causes satisfaction with terminal facilities to plummet to 555. Making sure travelers can hear flight announcements and having ample seating and outlets for charging electronics around a gate also lift satisfaction with terminal facilities by more than 130 index points.
- Combining Business with Pleasure: Overall satisfaction is highest among travelers who combine both business and leisure/personal travel (745). Satisfaction among business travelers is 724 and is 722 among leisure/personal travelers. Business travelers spend more than double what that of leisure travelers spend when in the terminal 30 or fewer minutes ($41.79 vs. $20.41, respectively) or 120 minutes or longer ($50.89 vs. $17.98).
- How Travelers Get to the Airport Matters: Airport accessibility satisfaction is highest among travelers who get to the airport using ride share (752), while satisfaction is lowest among those who receive a ride from friend, family member or colleague (729). One feature of accessibility that the 10 highest-performing airports in both the large and medium segments do better than the other airports is providing space at the curb for dropping off travelers. Among travelers at the 10 highest-performing large airports, 89% say it was easy to find curb space at the terminal, while only 83% of travelers at the other large airports say the same. Similarly, 91% of travelers at the 10 highest-performing medium airports say curb space was easy to find, compared with 88% of travelers at the other medium airports.
- Dissatisfied Customers Are Very Vocal: Dissatisfied airport travelers are the most likely to share their experience with others. Those who rate overall satisfaction 1 (on a 10-point scale) make an average of 13 negative comments about their experience. Conversely, those who rate their experience a 10 make an average of five positive mentions.
The study also measures the experience of North American travelers arriving at and departing from international airports. Collectively, airports in Asia Pacific—which includes Australia, India, the Pacific islands and Russia—have the highest overall satisfaction (761), followed by Europe (740), North America (725), Mexico/Caribbean, including Central America (717), South America (702) and Africa/Middle East (696).
North American airports trail Asia Pacific airports in all factors, and European airports trail in all factors except check-in/baggage check. The two areas in which Asia Pacific and European airports outpace North American airports the most are in terminal shopping (food and retail) and baggage claim. In fact, airports in all regions perform better than North American airports in terminal shopping.
Airport Satisfaction Rankings
Portland International Airport ranks highest in satisfaction among large airports, with a score of 791. Tampa International Airport ranks second (776) and McCarran International Airport ranks third (759).
Dallas Love Field and Southwest Florida International Airport rank highest in a tie among medium airports, with a score of 792. Indianapolis International Airport and Raleigh-Durham International Airport rank third in a tie at 789.
The 2015 North America Airport Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 21,009 North American travelers who traveled through at least one domestic or international airport with both departure and arrival experiences (excluding connecting airports) from July through October 2015. Travelers evaluated either a departing or arrival airport from their round trip experience. Only evaluations of North American airports are included in the official rankings, which was comprised of 18,834 responses. The study was fielded in September and October 2015.
Learn more about J.D. Power travel studies at http://www.jdpower.com/industry/travel.
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 Airport segments based on Federal Aviation Administration airport classifications. http://www.faa.gov/airports/planning_capacity/passenger_allcargo_stats/categories/
 The 2010 study included large, medium and small airports.
 J.D. Power defines generational groups as Pre-Boomers (born before 1946); Boomers (1946-1964); Gen X (1965-1976); Gen Y, or Millennials, (1977-1994); and Gen Z (1995-2004) Because respondents must be 18 years old to participate in the study, the analyses for Gen Z includes only those born between 1995 and 1997.