Ranked: The Best & Worst Airports in America

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By all accounts, air travel has not been easy lately, with overcrowded planes, delays, lost luggage and countless other headaches. But what about the airport experience?

JD Power 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 arrivals/departures, baggage claim, security screening, check-in/baggage screening and food/beverage /retail. The study also looks at current passenger satisfaction.

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So what are the winners – and the losers?

Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) ranks first in the Mega Airports category. “Completing internal construction projects has helped MSP. They are number 1 among Megas in terms of terminal facilities, TSA, airport access and baggage claim. In a year of dramatic passenger growth, MSP managed the increase better than most,” said Michael Taylor, head of travel information at JD Power.

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Bottom of the Mega Airport list: Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). What went wrong? “There hasn’t been as much ‘wrong’ as ‘not tracked,'” says Taylor. “EWR is swamped by passenger volume and much of its infrastructure just hasn’t kept up with that demand. It’s in a high-traffic area, which hurts entry scores — and if passengers are stressed getting to the airport, they tend to stay stressed throughout the experience.”

Tampa International Airport (TPA) is the winner in the Major Airports category. It is the first time that TPA has reached the top spot – and it has succeeded thanks to strong scores on all factors. “They’ve spent years developing and finalizing airport improvements (such as new food/beverage/retail) and developing space for passengers to enjoy those attributes,” Taylor said. “The ability for an airport to provide on-site relaxation is a real premium and TPA has outperformed most airports in the past year.”

On the other side is Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), which was voted the worst major airport in America. The problem: infrastructure. “PHL’s design [approach] has been [to] ‘add’ to existing structures for the main terminal, and the front of the airport just isn’t big enough to support the number of passengers going through TSA,” Taylor says. “Once through, passengers will find the food/beverage/retail marketplace quite attractive.”

Topping the list of medium airports: Indianapolis International Airport (IND), which has been near the top for three of the past four years (during Covid, JD Power did not declare a winner of the Medium category). “IND is one of the best-designed terminals in the US (New Orleans MSY is another),” says Taylor. “In addition to the ease of access, the ability to handle the passenger flow has helped it stay on top. The IND has also really ramped up its food/beverage/retail services coming out of Covid.”

America’s Worst Mid-Size Airport: Hollywood Burbank (BUR). “BUR is a victim of its own success,” said Taylor, pointing out that passenger volume is more than 5 to 6% above 2019 levels, while most airports are still down 9% from 2019.” As we do in almost any airport, an increase in passenger volume leads to a decrease in overall satisfaction,” says Taylor. “BUR has had a massive uptick in passenger volume and those numbers are making the terminal overcrowded.”

In addition to ranking the airports, JD Power’s Airport Satisfaction Study today talks about air passenger satisfaction. The bad news: Overall satisfaction has dropped 25 points this year (on a 1000-point scale). The problems: fewer flights, busier terminals and a scarce supply of food and drink.

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

So where are we going? “Unfortunately, things will probably get worse before they get better,” Taylor says. “The demand for travel does not seem to be declining and that means more passengers are going to the airport. The reduced number of planes flying with a higher percentage of seats means more crowds at the gates when people are flying.”

Also contributing to the misery: “Manpower shortage will continue to limit the availability of food/beverage/retail at the airport…and inflation will also limit satisfaction with those activities at the airport.”

The only good news, according to Taylor: “The increasing demand for travel is a problem that the industry wants to have. What is 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 about JD Power’s survey here.

Ranked: Mega Airports

Here’s JD 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: Major Airports

JD Power’s list of major airports takes into account facilities with 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. Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport

23. St. Louis Lambert . International Airport

24. LaGuardia Airport (New York)

25. Kansas City International Airport

26. Honolulu . International Airport

27. Philadelphia International Airport

Ranked: Medium Airports

Medium-sized airports host 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 Airport (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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