Airport guides

Airports in Phoenix, Dallas & Indianapolis at top of J.D. Power list

Airline passenger numbers are way down. Many airports still feeling sort of empty, with many shops and restaurants closed or operating on reduced schedules. And buying a plane ticket right now comes with a lot of “what ifs” and few perks.

So, it is an interesting time to a look at the findings of J.D. Power’s 2020 North American Airport Satisfaction Study.

First, the “winners”

The survey put airports up against each other in three categories: “mega” airports 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 airports are scored on a 1,000 point scale that takes into account passenger satisfaction with factors that include terminal facilities; airport arrival/departure; baggage claim; security check; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and retail, in order of importance.

Mega airports: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport ranks highest with a score of 805. Miami International Airport (801) ranks second and McCarran International Airport (797) ranks third.

Large airports: Dallas Love Field ranks highest with a score of 844. John Wayne Airport, Orange County (837) and Tampa International Airport (837) rank second, in a tie.

Medium airports: Indianapolis International Airport ranks highest with a score of 866. Palm Beach International Airport (833) ranks second and Southwest Florida International Airport (829) ranks third.

What influences this year’s rankings?

As with everything else right now, the coronavirus pandemic has put a twist into this year’s airport satisfaction rankings.  

The overall customer satisfaction score for North American airports is up this year, to a record-high 784, which is 22 points up from 2019.

Good news, right? Sort of.

“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 convenient experience for travelers right now,” says Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power, in the study notes.

 “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,” he adds.

Here are top five airports in each category. You can see the full rankings here.

Mega Airports

  1. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (805)
  2. Miami International Airport (801)
  3. McCarran International Airport (797)
  4. Denver International Airport (793)
  5. John F. Kennedy International Airport (793)

Large Airports

  1. Dallas Love Field (844)
  2. John Wayne Airport, Orange County (837)
  3. Tampa International Airport (837)
  4. William P. Hobby Airport (823)
  5. Portland International Airport (814)

Medium Airports

  1. Indianapolis International Airport (866)
  2. Palm Beach International Airport (833)
  3. Southwest Florida International Airport (829)
  4. Albuquerque International Sunport (826)
  5. Pittsburgh International Airport (826)

What about the airports at the bottom of each list?

In the mega category, Newark Liberty International Airport was at the bottom of the list, with a score of 733, just below Chicago O’Hare International Airport, which had a score of 758.

Among large airports, New York’s LaGuardia Airport (in the middle of a much-heralded make-over) ranked lowest, with a score of 712.

And for medium airports, Hawaii’s Kahului Airport was at the bottom of the list, with a 745 score.

‘5 Things We Love About…” an airport near you

Fall travel doesn’t look like it is going to involve much flying. And we suspect that concerns about COVID-19 will mean that most winter adventures will have to be put on hold as well.

But that’s not stopping us from celebrating cool features and amenities at airports in our ongoing “5 Things We Love About…” series.

So far, we’ve profiled more than 30 airports. And we’re reminded of how proud each of these airports is to be serving and representing their cities.

While we work on putting together more airport profiles, take a moment to visit some that have been featured so far.

And please let us know if there’s an airport you’d like to see featured.

Albany International Airport (ALB)

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)

Boise Airport (BOI)

Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)

Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)

Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)

Dallas Love Field Airport (DAL)

Denver International Airport (DEN)

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

Evansville Regional Airport (EVV)

George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP)

Houston William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)

John Wayne Airport (SNA)

Long Beach Airport (LGB)

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY)

Miami International Airport (MIA)

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)

Ontario International Airport (ONT)

Orlando International Airport (MCO)

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)

Portland International Airport (PDX)]

Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO)

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

San Antonio International Airport (SAT)

St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL)

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)

Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport (ICT)

IAH: 5 Thing We Love About George Bush Intercontinental Airport

Our “5 Things We Love About...” series celebrating features and amenities at airports around the country and the world lands at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).

The airport is located about 23 miles north of downtown Houston and is served by more than two dozen airlines offering flights to about 185 non-destinations.

Keep in mind that some of the amenities we list may be temporarily unavailable due to health concerns. We’re confident they’ll be back.

If we miss one of the things you love about George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), be sure to leave a note in the comments section below.

5 Things We Love About George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

1. The art at IAH Airport

The Houston Airport System owns one of the largest collections of public art in Texas and a good amount of that art is on display at IAH Airport.

Travel Light – by The Art Guys
Moonwalking Cow – Silvestri

2. Live music at IAH Airport

The Harmony in the Air performing arts program at IAH presents live concerts in Terminal A, Northside Atrium, and in Terminal D, near gate D8.

Concerts are scheduled Monday through Friday and include classical, jazz, pop, and International music. See the IAH website for schedule and concert times.

3. The IAH Yoga studio

IAH has a yoga studio for passengers in Terminal A, near Gate A3.

4. Shopping at IAH

We’ve picked up some great souvenirs in the shops at IAH

5. The Inter-Terminal Train at IAH

All five terminals at IAH are connected by an above-ground automated people-mover (the Skyway) and the underground Subway, which dates to 1981 and runs on a circuit that makes a curving and somewhat amusing round-trip every 18 minutes.

As of September 2020, the subway was undergoing some major repairs, so the video below may be the closest you’ll get to this unusual ride for a while.

The Inter-Terminal Train at IAH has a great backstory.

In the late-1970s a Disney executive who traveled through IAH on a regular basis became irritated with the unreliable tram system then operating between terminals. Not long after, a Disney-made people mover opened at IAH.

That’s why Mickey Mouse was on hand for the subway’s opening day.

Did we miss one your favorite features or amenities at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)? Be sure to leave a note in the comment section below.

Looking ahead: Will we ever be able to travel again? And, if so, what will that be like?

Will we ever be able to travel again? And, if so, what will that be like?

No one knows for sure, but an interesting group of travel experts is going to talk about it on October 7-8 during the online Travel 2021 Summit.

I am on the agenda talking about what airlines and airports are doing to make travelers feel safe now and what air travel may be like in the future.

Want to attend? Here is a link to the Travel 2021 Summit where you can get a discount on tickets.

Early bird pricing ends September 17. 

Use code SEPT50 for $50 off the registration fee.

A trip to the airport in the new normal

Missing airports? Us too.

That’s why we masked up and spent a few hours at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) last week to see what’s new – and what’s not.

And to gauge whether or not we’re ready to fly.

(Spoiler alert: we’re not.)

First, a disclaimer. We went to the airport with a long list of photos to take, features and amenities to check up on, and favorite views and pieces of art to visit.

We’ve been isolating at home and in our neighborhood, so the crowds (yes, crowds) at the airport last Friday afternoon were a surprise. So were all people who were mask-less and oblivious to social-distancing despite clear signage and perfectly understandable overhead announcements. And, well, the state of the world.

So while we are pleased to see all the protocols and precautions the airport has tried to put in place, we cut the visit short.

But here are some notes on what we found in our hometown airport.

Courtesy SEA Airport

As expected, we saw lots of signs reminding people not to flock together and to put on their masks.

We noted too that there are new overhead announcements. Instead of local music celebrities and airport officials welcoming us to the airport, there are reminders of health-related protocols. Including a request to stand in the middle of the step when on an escalator.

There are now vending machines filled with personal protection items you may need on your trip.

We had meant to do some shopping at the airport in some of our favorite stores. Because – stores! But while we were glad to see Ex Officio is open in its new spot and Fireworks Gallery has friendly minders posted at both the entrance and the exit of the gift shop, we moved along to our scheduled appointments.

Cool new bathroom feature

We admit it. It was this new bathroom feature that really lured us out of the comfort zone of our home and past airport security.

Although we almost turned back once we saw how bunched up and pre-COVID disorganized things were around the screening machines.

Some other airports around the country already have Tooshlights installed in some restrooms.

But Seattle-Tacoma International Airport just got their first set.

As you can see from the photo, this invention lets you know if a restroom stall is open or not. Before COVID, it was appealing because it eliminates that awkward touching of all the doors or peeking under them to find an empty stall.

Now, the fact that you don’t have to touch doors and can easily see what’s open means less time spent in an enclosed space. There’s a bonus service here too: the locks collect information on how often each door opens and closes, so cleaning cycles can be lined up with use.

A new African-themed menu at the Africa Lounge

Courtesy SEA Airport

We made two other stops in the airport.

One was at the Africa Lounge on Concourse A. The taproom has been here since about 2005 and is a visual oasis in the busy concourse as well as a nice place to get cocktails and American fare.

Now there’s a new reason to stop by.

The Africa Lounge now has African food and drinks on the menu, including sambusas, which are Central African fried pastries filled with spicy beef or vegetables. The sides include fried plantains with tangy sauces and jollof rice, which is a West African staple made with tomatoes, peppers, onions, and spices.

The Africa Lounge is also featuring a nice selection of South African wines, a handful of African-inspired cocktails, Ethiopian coffee, and an African music playlist.

Courtesy SEA Airport

The CLUB at SEA

We hope to go back and re-visit all the club lounges at SEA airport. But on this trip, we stopped into the South Satellite branch of The CLUB at SEA to see what’s new and different.

In addition to plastic partitions at the entry and touchless document reviews, the lounge is operating at half-capacity, with many seats blocked off. Even the coveted window bar has seating restrictions.

Cocktails are still being served at the cocktail window, but “nothing that needs to be shaken or stirred, such as margaritas,” said general manager Karen Law, “and no olives in martinis for now.”

Newspapers and magazines are gone too. Now guests can scan and upload a wide variety of papers and magazines to phone or laptops in many more languages than before.

Serve-yourself food is also out, for now, so staff members stand ready to hand guests pre-plated food and soft drinks from the fridge.

MSP: 5 Things We Love About Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

Our ‘5 Things We Love About…” series celebrating features and amenities at airports around the country and the world lands today at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP).

MSP sits on land that, back in 1914, was home to Snelling Speedway.

Auto racing gave way to airmail service and Speedway Field. In 1923 the airport was renamed Wold-Chamberlain Field in honor of two local pilots who lost their lives in combat during World War 1.

The airport’s first passenger service was in 1929 and in 1948 the MSP acquired its current name: Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Please keep in mind that some of the amenities we feature here may be currently unavailable due to health concerns. We’re confident they’ll be back.

5 Things We Love About Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

1. Award-winning restrooms at MSP

Clean bathrooms are an important airport amenity. Add art and an airport’s bathrooms can become something people talk about and give awards to.

That’s what happened when several sets of MSP restrooms were remodeled to feature stunning artist-made mosaics and the latest in cleaning technology.

In 2016, MSP Airport won first place in an annual contest that crowns America’s best public restroom. That was the first time an airport loo won the award.

2. The arts program at MSP

In 2019, MSP airport presented more than 900 live music and dance performances.

MSP also has permanent public art installations and temporary art exhibits in both terminals. MSP also hosts an annual art show that features work by MSP employees and their families.

This summer, local authors began online readings from their books and Once the pandemic is over, the plan is to have monthly readings in the art gallery in the Airport Mall in Terminal 1.   

3. The Prince store at MSP


The late musician Prince is a beloved Minnesota-born icon.

In addition to a giant 16-foot-by 24-foot mural of Prince by artist Rock Martinez, MSP airport also has a Prince store in Terminal 1 where fans can buy all sorts of Prince-branded merchandise.

4. Minnesota’s Tallest Escalator is at MSP

MSP’s newest parking ramp partially opened in early August with a new attraction: Minnesota’s tallest escalator.

The escalator is 55 feet tall, travels about 100 feet per minute and is capable of transporting 9,000 people per hour.

The ride – up or down – takes 1 minute and 15 seconds.

All rental car services, off-airport parking shuttles and all bus services are in the new Silver Ramp.   


5. Animal ambassadors at MSP

98 therapy dogs – and a therapy cat named Stitches – serve as animal ambassadors at MSP airport, helping reduce travelers’ stress.

Bonus: The hotel at MSP Airport

MSP Airport has a hotel located between the inbound and outbound roadways at Terminal 1 with direct access to Concourse C via a skyway.

The 291-room, 12-story Intercontinental MSP Airport has two restaurants, a cocktail bar, a TSA checkpoint (currently closed due to COVID), a fitness center, a thermal pool, and a collection of work by local artists.

One thing MSP Airport does not have is an aircraft viewing area with an outdoor pool.

That was a great April Fools Day joke from 2018 that we’re still wishing might come true.

Did we miss one of the amenities you love at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)?

If so, please leave a note in the comments section below.

And be sure to take a look at the other airports in our “5 Things We Love About...” series.