After being grounded by the pandemic, most folks are pretty darn excited to go to the airport to fly to just about anywhere.
But once at the airport, the excitement seems to fade.
That’s what the J.D. Power 2022 North America Airport Satisfaction Study, released on Wednesday, tells us.
According to the study, satisfaction is down 25 points (on a 1,000-point scale) this year because travelers are disappointed with fewer flights, more cancellations, crowded terminals, limited food and beverage offerings in the terminals, and limited places to park.
“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 has created a scenario in which airports are extremely crowded and passengers are increasingly frustrated—and it is likely to continue through 2023,” said Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power.
“In some ways, this is a return to normal as larger crowds at airports tend to make travelers more frazzled, but in cases where parking lots are over capacity, gates are standing room only and restaurants and bars are not even open to offer some reprieve, it is clear that increased capacity in airports can’t come soon enough.”
That doesn’t mean travelers are more pleased with some airports than others.
In the ‘mega’ category – Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport ranks highest in passenger satisfaction, followed by San Francisco International Airport. Both Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport land in a third-place tie.
Among large airports, Tampa International Airport ranks highest, followed by John Wayne Airport, Orange County and Dallas Love Field.
And in the medium airport category, Indianapolis International Airport ranks highest, with Pittsburgh International Airport in second place and Jacksonville International Airport and Southwest Florida International Airport in a third-place tie.
The 2022 North America Airport Satisfaction Study measures traveler satisfaction by looking at six factors. In order of importance) those factors are terminal facilities; airport arrival/departure; baggage claim; security check; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and retail.
Where does your favorite airport land in the ratings this year?
My most recent “At the Airport” column for USA TODAY explores the “Experience Hub” at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Take a look and let us know if you think this model can make a difference in passenger happiness at other airports.
Like most airports, Dallas-Forth International has an operations
center to monitor everything happening out on the airfield.
But for the past two few years DFW has been beefing up another
type of behind-the-scenes center.
This one is called the Experience Hub and its role is to keep
watch over everything happening inside the terminals, to respond as swiftly as
possible to any sort of passenger issue and to solve problems before they
Every airport will tell you it has people and departments to
do all that. However, DFW officials believe their customer experience hub is a unique
and more effective way to serve its more than 69 million passengers in part
because it has centralized many functions that were previously spread out
across departments and locations.
“Everybody here has responsibility driven by making
the customer experience the best it can be,” said Julio Badin, DFW’s Vice
President of Customer Service during a recent tour of the windowless,
7,000-square foot room in Terminal D that houses representatives from just
about every customer-facing agency or department at the airport and dozens of monitors
streaming data and live terminal feeds.
“This group is focused on all the things that
touch the customer from the experience perspective,” said Badin, pointing out
staff checking on everything from the weather and airline load factors to TSA
lines, baggage room operations, custodial schedules, restroom maintenance needs
and mentions of DFW on social media.
The hub, located on the non-secure side of the
airport, in Terminal D, is staffed 24-hours a day and has a conference table in
the center and low-lit work stations (to avoid monitor glare) for about 20
people around the perimeter.
Two officers from the Transportation Security Administration’s
planning department are chatting about what they see on the monitors at their work
station. Their job: to study projected passenger numbers from the airlines, observe
the wait times at the airport’s various security checkpoints and decide how and
when to open additional lanes, move staff around and send in teams of bomb
sniffing canines with their handlers to help speed things up.
“The planning team is the guts behind how well the TSA
checkpoints work,” said DFW’s Badin, who was pleased that TSA accepted the
airport’s invitation to locate this team here.
Sitting nearby the TSA planners are customer care specialists who
spend their days answering passenger questions, solving problems for travelers and
monitoring and responding to social media messages or mentions.
“People call wanting to know if their car will be towed if
their flight gets back late. They want to know where they can get a mimosa at 8
a.m. And, of course, we get lots of calls from people who need help finding lost
items,” said Clara Meyer, an Experience Hub Specialist whose shift starts 4:30
“We once got a call about a man flying in on a flight from
India. He didn’t know that his travel agent had put him on a flight to Dallas instead
of [Washington] Dulles and his daughter called us asking for help,” said Meyer,
“We sent someone to find him to explain what happened and had them stay with
him until he got onto a flight to Dulles. We also helped him on the way home.”
The computer screens at the work station next to Meyers are filled
with live streams of messages tagged with #DFW on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
and other social media streams.
A hub staff member responds in real time to just about anything
that pops up on social media relating to DFW customer service. Sometimes it’s a
“Welcome to DFW,”
or “Sorry your flight is late,” message. But often the response is a tweet
filled with specific information a customer has requested, such as a list of
airport restaurants open before 5 a.m. or a shop that might sell a replacement
for a left-behind hair straightener.
And because the social media monitoring desk is in DFW’s
Experience Hub, if there’s a tweet from, say, a frustrated mom who’s run out of
diapers during a flight delay, there’s someone at the next desk who can call or
text one of the airport customer experience specialists (ACES) out in the
terminals and have them bring supplies over.
Make a playlist and
Back in the hub, each day begins with the building of “playlists,”
said DFW Experience Hub Manager Ricky Griffin, “We look at expected passenger
loads, weather, and other factors so we can give the ACEs a detailed list of
tasks they should complete and check off in the terminals that day.”
To predict the day’s passenger flows and identify areas that
might need extra attention, Griffin’s team looks at what TSA has planned for
staffing and holds conference calls with American Airlines (which has a main
hub at DFW) and other departments at the airport to find out what they may be
expecting that day.
“Then we draft an email that goes out to our team to let
them know what’s happening,” said Griffin. As the day progresses, everyone in
the hub continues monitoring and watching out for everything from such storms
in the area to baggage hiccups, unattended luggage, fire alarms, and anything
that might cause a glitch in the terminals.
The time, energy and resources DFW is putting into enhancing
the customer experience for passengers seems to be paying off.
The airport has won some major customer service awards and in
the past year other airports keen to raise their level of customer service,
including Denver, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Seattle-Tacoma International and a
few international airports have sent teams out to see DFW’s Experience Hub in
Here are some snaps from a recent tour of the 540-seat lounge capping off a fast four-day visit to London and Paris that included a ride on the Eurostar as part of the #LondonParisNow campaign.
The bar – called “Le Balcon” – was designed by Mathieu Lehanneur and is self-serve much of the day, but from 6:30 p.m. to about 10 p.m. there’s a bartender on duty mixing up a menu of specialty-created cocktails.
Photo _ Harriet Baskas
The wellness area include restrooms with saunas, 20-minute complimentary Clarins spa services, a ‘detox’ bar with healthy potions and a quiet rest area with day beds.
Detox bar at CDG Air France lounge . Photo _Harriet Baskas
Detox potions at Air France CDG lounge. Photo Harriet Baskas
There’s also a special play for kids and a ‘Petit Salon’ area offering extra privacy for special guests:
Air France lounge at CDG – Kids area. Photo-Harriet Baskas
And then, of course, there’s food. In addition to a self-serve buffet, there’s a “Gourmet Table” where a chef prepares a ‘dish of the day’:
Air France says this is what passengers can look forward to in other cities where the lounges are scheduled to be upgraded as well.
On my way to London via British Airways from Terminal 7 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday, I was invited to tour the newly refurbished British Airways First lounge, look inside the exclusive Concorde Room and spend time in the Galleries lounge.
Here are a few snaps from the day:
The new First lounge is now 60 percent bigger than the previous lounge – and includes a pre-flight dining area (shared with the Galleries /business lounge), a pleasant quiet work area and this lovely large bar area.
When I passed through it seemed to be both self-serve, with bartenders nearby.
Around the corner from the bar is a Wine Room with an enomatic dispenser serving 1-ounce tasting pours of a variety of specially chosen wine. Right now “Chardonnays of the World” are featured.
In addition to a quite bountiful buffet in the dining area, there was this dim sum bar nearby.
And (my favorite, after the complimentary 15-minute facial offered in the Elemis spa) – a roving Gin and Tonic cart that was visiting both the First and Galleries loung areas.
Have you visited these lounges? Let us know what you think of the new and improved (and almost finished…) spaces.
Murmur No. 23, by Richard Barnes. Courtey SFO Museum
The SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport is hosting an exhibition of photographs by Richard Barnes of starlings over Rome.
Barnes photographs the starlings during their winter migration from northern Europe to the Rome countryside. He waits till dusk, when the birds form dense cloud-like formations known as murmurations, and in his “Murmur” series Barnes has captured the starlings forming impressive aerial shapes.
Look for the Murmur exhibit pre-security on the Departures Level in Terminal 3 of the San Francisco International Airport.
Murmur No. 21 , by Richard Barnes. Courtesy SFO Museum
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has kicked off a new program, Celebrations at Sea-Tac, to honor holidays, traditions and cultures from the United Stations and global community.
The celebrations begin November with 1 for Dia de los Muertos, or the “Day of the Dead,” a Mexican holiday honoring and remembering loved ones.
Activities will include art installations, candy skull face painting and arts and crafts for children, food and beverage sampling and live performances.