Feb. 18--Airline passengers are growing increasingly dissatisfied with their experience at O'Hare International Airport on matters ranging from the cleanliness and comfort of terminals to problems with baggage and security, according to a new survey by J.D. Power and Associates.
Along with O'Hare slipping in virtually all categories since the last study by J.D. Power two years ago, Midway Airport went from first place in 2008 to ninth in customer satisfaction this year among 20 medium-sized airports where passengers were surveyed.
Midway received strong customer satisfaction ratings for its restaurants and retail shops in the terminal. But lower on the list were the check-in process and the speed in which passengers are processed through security checkpoints, the survey found. Delays in receiving luggage at the baggage-claim area, as well as airport parking and traffic congestion, were also viewed as negatives.
"It is the voice of the consumer," said Stuart Greif, vice president of global travel and the hospitality practice at J.D. Power.
The survey results were embargoed for release on Thursday morning with the understanding that reporters would not share the findings with airport officials beforehand.
After the embargo was lifted at 7 a.m. Thursday, the Tribune left a message for the spokeswoman with the Chicago Department of Aviation seeking comment.
Chicago Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino was traveling in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, Thursday on city business at the invitation of the Abu Dhabi Airports Company. O'Hare and Abu Dhabi International Airport are "sister airports" under an agreement reached last year. Andolino is due to return to Chicago on Saturday.
Meanwhile, O'Hare ranked 14th out of 19 airports in this year's survey -- down from 12th place in 2008, 11th place in 2007 and fifth place in 2006, according to the survey.
Greif said the new findings reflect the importance of airports "getting back to basics in moving passengers efficiently and with ease."
Wi-Fi services in airports and other technological improvements don't make up for insufficient or uncomfortable seating, dirty facilities, poorly functioning baggage-claim areas, airport traffic congestion and parking lots located far from the ticket counters, he said.
"The best airports are raising the performance bar," Greif added. Seven large airports and seven medium-sized airports in this year's survey scored higher than did the No. 1 rated airports in both categories in the 2008 study, he said.
The top five large airports in 2010 in terms of customer satisfaction are Detroit Metro, Denver International, Minneapolis-St. Paul International, Orlando International and Phoenix Sky Harbor, according to the survey.
The six areas in which airport users were asked to provide satisfaction levels were airport accessibility; check-in/baggage check; security check; terminal facility; food and retail services; and baggage claim. O'Hare ranked lower in all areas compared with the 2008 survey.
"The areas where O'Hare performed less well than in the prior study were kind of across the board," Greif said. The deepest declines were for airport accessibility and terminal facilities, he said, followed by check-in/baggage check and security check.
The message to the Chicago Department of Aviation is "passengers are clearly speaking through the data that the performance at O'Hare has gone down, while other airports have significantly improved their performance at the top of the market," Greif said.
Many of the problems are easily corrected by better signage or stronger oversight of airport cleaning crews and other employees, the survey indicated.
"Customers gave O'Hare a low rating on the ease of finding the baggage-claim area," Greif said.
The customer dissatisfaction with terminal facilities was focused on the lack of cleanliness and complaints about seating in the concourse or gate areas, he said.
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