Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport ranked highest in overall customer satisfaction among large airports in an annual survey, followed closely by Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta.
Overall the survey by the California-based J.D. Power and Associates showed that travelers are less satisfied with the baggage claim process -- particularly at large airports -- which many more people used after the implementation of security rules that limited liquids in carry-on baggage.
The annual survey, now in its seventh year, is an Internet-based study using responses from more than 10,200 passengers who took a flight between May 2006 and April 2007. It measures customer satisfaction at large airports (30 million passengers annually or more); medium airports (10 million to 30 million) and small airports (fewer than 10 million).
In addition to baggage claim, it measures traveler's satisfaction with airport accessibility, check-in/baggage check, terminal facilities, security check, food and beverage, retail services and immigration/customs control.
Pittsburgh International, a medium-sized airport, actually slipped in its ratings from last year; it ranked fifth out of 26 airports rated in 2006 and ninth out of 25 airports rated in 2007. But in both surveys, it was scored above the average for medium-sized airports.
It's important to note the performance of the three main hubs served by US Airways, Pittsburgh's dominant carrier, where many travelers have to change planes: Philadelphia dropped from third place in 2006 to seventh this year; Phoenix stayed in the middle of the pack; and Charlotte slipped from 18 to 20.
Overall among medium-sized airports, Kansas City International ranked highest, followed by Sacramento in California and LaGuardia in New York. Among small airports, Houston Hobby ranked highest for a second consecutive year, followed by Dallas Love Field and San Antonio International.
Other key findings from the study:
* Overall customer satisfaction levels flattened in 2007, after climbing steadily between 2002 and 2006.
* One in five travelers experienced a flight delay, a 12 percent increase over 2006. Reasons for delays included bad weather, 31 percent; unavailability of aircraft, 20 percent; and mechanical problems, 14 percent.
* The average airport customer spent $11.91 on food and drink. The figure was higher -- $14.72 -- at small airports.
* In markets served by multiple nearby airports, customers report little difference in overall satisfaction between major airports and neighboring secondary airports, which are smaller and less busy. The study also found that customers in communities served by only one airport are just as satisfied as customers with two or more airports to choose from.
* Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed said they had checked baggage, compared to 67 percent in 2006. Average wait time for claiming baggage slightly increased, from 17.3 minutes to 18 minutes.
The study found that wait times are a key determinant of airport customer satisfaction. On average, passengers tolerate wait times up to 17 minutes before satisfaction drops to below-average levels.
"While some waiting is unavoidable in airport travel, several airports have employed innovative methods to reduce wait times and manage customer expectations," said Jim Gaz, senior director of travel and entertainment for J.D. Power.
"For example, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International manages customer expectations by giving passengers the opportunity to review wait times on its Web site and to sign up for electronic updates. These efforts go a long way in enhancing the experience and changing attitudes of customers who generally find air travel inconvenient and stressful."
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