5 Things We Love About Indianapolis International Airport (IND)
1. All the Art at IND
IND has a wonderful collection of permanent and temporary art collections displayed throughout the airport. Many of the pieces were created by artists or poets who live in Indiana or have ties to the Hoosier state.
2. The food at IND
IND is one of those airports where you want to arrive hungry.
The “World’s Best Shrimp Cocktail is served with a signature and very spicy cocktail sauce at Harry & Izzy’s steakhouse in Concourse A. The list of other eateries with local connections includes the Sun King Brewing Co., Shapiro’s Delicatessen, and Tinker Coffee. And check out this Reis and Irvy’s robotic yogurt kiosk.
3. Racing Cars in the IND Terminal
Indianapolis is home to the Indy 500, the largest single-day sporting event in the world. So IND airport displays vintage racing vehicles from the vault at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.
Passengers will also hear revving engine sound effects in the pedestrian bridge.
4. Largest Airport Solar Farm
IND lays claim to being home to the world’s largest airport solar farm. The field of panels creates enough energy to power 3,675 average American homes per year. For more energy, the airport has human-powered charging bikes.
5. Souvenir Shopping at IND
Souvenir shopping at IND? Fun options include made-in-Indiana candy at Natalie’s Candy Jar; books by Indiana authors at INK by Hudson and, for a splurge, a crystal basketball from Scoreboard on Concourse A.
Did we miss one of the features you love about Indianapolis International Airport? If so, drop a note in the comments section below. Also let us know which airport you’d like to nominate to be featured in our series next.
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.
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.
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (805)
Miami International Airport (801)
McCarran International Airport (797)
Denver International Airport (793)
John F. Kennedy International Airport (793)
Dallas Love Field (844)
John Wayne Airport, Orange County (837)
Tampa International Airport (837)
William P. Hobby Airport (823)
Portland International Airport (814)
Indianapolis International Airport (866)
Palm Beach International Airport (833)
Southwest Florida International Airport (829)
Albuquerque International Sunport (826)
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.
What ‘secret weapons’ do airports use to make passengers happy? For my most recent “At the Airport” column on USA TODAY, I asked some of the ‘winners’ in the most recent JD Power suvey to share what they think makes their airports stand out against others.
Airports around the country are dealing wiht record high passenger volumes and a wave of major terminal construction projects. Yet, U.S. airports are doing a bang-up job of pleasing passengers.
That’s the major take-away from the 2018 North America Airport Satisfaction Study recently released by J.D. Power, which ranks everything from airlines and airports to electronics and cars.
The study says travelers’ overall satisfaction with airports is at a record high, based on factors such as terminal facilities; airport accessibility; security check; baggage claim; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and retail.
Of course, some airports rank higher in the study than others. And when we quizzed ‘winners’ about the secrets to their success, “a commitment to customer service” emerged as a universal theme. But so too did did a keen, good-hearted sense of competition.
The ‘mega’ airports
Among ‘mega’ airports – those serving more than 32.5 million annual passengers – Orlando International Airport (the 2017 category winner) and McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas tied for first place.
Orlando International (MCO), Florida’s busiest airport, credits its return win to “a seamless arrival and departure experience that exceeds the needs of the traveler and instills a memorable imprint of the culture and environment of the region.”
The airport is meeting milestones in its $4.27 billion Capital Improvement Plan and has completed a variety of ‘passenger-pleasing’ projects ranging from improved Wi-Fi and baggage systems to a people mover system that transports passengers over waterways and landscape that evoke the Florida sense of place.
When McCarran International Airport (LAS) landed in the number 3 slot in J.D. Power’s ‘mega’ category last year, Rosemary Vassiliadis, Director of Aviation for Clark County, Nevada, gathered her team together to strategize how to move up to first place.
“It’s personal for us,” said Vassiliadis, “Las Vegas is a destination city and our airport offers the first and last look for almost 50% of the people who visit. We want to let them know how much their visit means to us.”
To gain its first-place tie this year, LAS teams focused on upgrading terminal spaces, smoothing out checkpoint experiences and perfecting the “You’re in Vegas” vibe that includes slot machines, a neon “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, and a curated “Voices of Vegas” taped music program highlighting iconic Vegas acts and songs that name check the city.
At Detroit Metropolitan Airport (ranked third in this category this year) logo welcome mats have replaced industrial black runners. DTW officials also credit high passenger satisfaction ratings to amenities such as new nursing rooms, water bottle refill stations and light fixtures that can be programmed with seasonal and sport-team colors.
At Denver International Airport, which placed fourth in the ‘mega’ category this year, the secret to success is always looking for ways to “surprise and delight passengers,” said airport spokeswoman Emily Williams.
DEN offers everything from a Canine Airport Therapy Squad (that includes a cat) to airport events in an outdoor plaza that have featured a beer garden and an ice-skating rink.
And during its current terminal renovation project, DEN is having success delighting passengers with a series of “Pardon our dust” messages that embrace the conspiracy theories and rumors of alien inhabitants that date back to 1995, when the airport opened.
The best ‘large’ airports
Among ‘large’ airports serving 10 million to 32.4 million passengers California’s John Wayne Airport, in Orange County, ranked highest this year; Dallas Love Field ranked second and Oregon’s Portland International Airport ranked third.
John Wayne Airport 2006
With a departure curfew, passenger and flights caps and just 505 acres, “We’re a postage stamp of an airport, but passengers like our airport’s convenience.” said Deanne Thompson, spokeswoman for John Wayne Airport (SNA), which is located about an hour from LAX.
At SNA, passengers also appreciate ‘extras’ such as water bottle refill stations, pet relief areas, the vibrant art program and the nursing mothers lounge with adjustable lighting, said Thompson, “All amenities that make travel easy.”
Dallas Love Field Airport, which must contend with a gate cap, credits its customer satisfaction success to “personal touch and high-quality customer service.”
The airport offers a live weekday lunchtime music performance program, permanent and changing art exhibitions, a public piano, a children’s play area and information booths that are staffed from 5 a.m. until the last flight.
And at Oregon’s Portland International Airport, passengers enjoy the wide selection of local and regional shops and restaurants, true street pricing and a suite of amenities that includes a free movie theater, said PDX spokeswoman Kama Simonds.
“The secret sauce? The folks who work at PDX, who have an awesome sense of pride in the work they do and the travelers they interact with,” said Simonds, “And as we all know from when we’re travelers, that makes the whole experience that much better.”
The best ‘Medium’ airports
Among medium sized airports – those serving between 3 million and 9.9 million passengers – this year Buffalo Niagara International Airport ranks the highest, followed by Indianapolis International Airport and Fort Myers/Southwest Florida International.
In addition to focusing on customer service, “We also do things that go above and beyond,” said Kimberley Minkel, executive director of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, which operates the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
The airport has a branch of the Anchor Bar where Buffalo chicken wings were invented and the second largest ‘Paws of Love’ therapy dog program in the country. Thanks in large part to BUF’s award winning snow removal team, the airport never closes.
Among its ‘secret weapons,’ Indianapolis International Airport cites its bright, wide-open spaces and amenities such as human-powered charging kiosks and an extensive permanent and rotating art exhibition program. Events at the airport often mirror what’s happening in town: i.e. during Indianapolis 500 season, IND hosts a panel with drivers sharing stories of their racing experiences.
And a Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, “Our secret to success is the sense of place at our facilities,” said RSW spokeswoman Victoria Moreland, “In the terminal you can look out huge windows at the busy ramp and runway areas while sitting at a table under a palm tree.”
Do you agree with these rankings? And have you noticed these ‘secret weapons’ employed?
Through June, two art exhibits in the ticket hall at IND airport celebrate the 100th Indy 500 as well:
One exhibition features work by two of the 33 artists commissioned by the Arts Council of Indianapolis to create their interpretations of the “Welcome Race Fans” signs that appear throughout the city during May. A video running above the escalators leading down to the baggage claim is showing a video featuring the work of all 33 artists.
Also featured is an exhibit with work by Indianapolis painter Rene Crigler. Crigler, who works part-time as a race official at major events around the country.
It was built in 1958-59 by Eddie Kuzma and was driven on one-mile tracks by Jim Rathmann, Ed Elisian, Bobby Grim, Jimmy McElreath and two-time National Champion Tony Bettenhausen, who won with it at Phoenix in 1959.
It became known as “The Grey Ghost” after a rush repair job in 1962 led to an appearance at a track in gray primer. Look for it on Concourse B near the exit to Civic Plaza.
The airport’s release also refers to the racing car as a ‘dirt car’ – and says that, according to the museum, other than the Indianapolis 500, most National Championship races held between the early 1930s and the late 1950s were dirt track “100-milers,” with the popular events still counting toward the national title as late as 1970. These dual-purpose, solidly built cars won the 500 in 1950, ’51 and ’52, and were still in the lineup as late as 1956.