Sep 21, 2022 - Economy

Everyone hates the airport again

Image of passengers waiting for delayed flights at Newark Liberty International Airport

Travelers wait at Newark Liberty International Airport. Photo: Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

Even new conveniences like pre-scheduled TSA check-in or self-tagging baggage kiosks can't make up for the biggest problem plaguing airports: overcrowding.

Why it matters: It's 2019 all over again. After a brief, blissful period during the pandemic when passengers could breeze through security checkpoints, baggage claims and restaurants, airports are again a source of frustration, according to J.D. Power's latest annual Airport Satisfaction Study.

  • And the misery will likely continue into next year, says Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power.

Driving the news: Overall customer satisfaction with North American airports fell 25 points, for a score of 777 out of 1,000 this year, as passenger volume returned nearly to normal, J.D. Power found.

Details: The Airport Satisfaction Study looks at six factors: terminal facilities; airport arrival/departure; security check; check-in/baggage check; baggage claim; and food, beverage and retail. Some of this year's key findings include:

  • Crowds are back to pre-pandemic levels: 58% of airport travelers described the terminal as severely or moderately crowded, nearly in line with 2019.
  • Inflation hit the airport: 24% of travelers said they did not purchase any food or beverages at the airport due to high costs. That's up from 20% in 2021 and 23% in 2019.
  • There's nowhere to park: A shortage of spaces caused a 45-point drop in satisfaction from 2021. Meanwhile, 14% of travelers said parking was more expensive than they expected, up from 12% in 2021 and 11% in 2019.

How they ranked: Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport had the highest passenger satisfaction score among major airports, at 800.

  • San Francisco International Airport was second, while Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport tied with New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport for third.
  • Newark Liberty International Airport, which has been plagued with delays over the past year, ranked last — and well below other major airports.

The intrigue: Construction has a significant effect on airport satisfaction.

  • New York's LaGuardia, which President Biden once maligned as a "Third World" airport, saw a significant bump — almost 100 points — after opening a gleaming new terminal.

What they're saying: "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," Taylor said.

  • "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."
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