Denver International Airport Is Mostly a Hit

Travelers are more or less pleased with Denver International Airport's train system, terminals and gate areas. They also give relatively high marks to its security checkpoints and the check-in process.

But they want a more diverse selection of restaurants and retail shops, as well as more comfortable seating in the concourses.

These are some of the findings of a passenger survey DIA released Monday, the first such study since the airport opened 11 years ago.

Overall, DIA ranked among the nation's top airports, scoring a 68 out of 100 in customer satisfaction, according to Airport Interviewing and Research Inc., which conducted the survey for DIA. Airports typically get scores in the 50s and low 60s in identical surveys, the company said.

The results show that "the aviation staff out there is doing a great job with an airport that continually breaks passenger records (yet) gets such high customer satisfaction ratings," said Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

DIA officials characterized the results as positive but said there's room for improvement.

The survey includes responses from more than 600 travelers who were asked to rate numerous areas of the airport, including the cleanliness of restrooms and signage in the main terminal. Airport Interviewing and Research rates scores of 60 to 69 as "good" or "very good," while those below 45 are considered failing. Scores of 70 and above are considered top tier.

"With the exception of two areas where it was basically on par with major hub airports, I think DIA did exceptionally well," said Ira Weinstein, president of Airport Interviewing Research. "The image across the board is one of a customer-friendly attitude."

DIA recorded high satisfaction scores in several key areas:

* The train system that shuttles passengers from the terminals to the concourses received a score of 80, while the check-in process and the terminal facilities - which includes cleanliness and restroom wait times - were in the 70s.

* Passengers are relatively pleased with the gate areas, which received a score of 69, while DIA's security checkpoint received a score of 63, higher than many large airports.

* Perhaps most surprising, Weinstein said, is that about 95 percent of those surveyed said DIA conveys a positive image for the region. "That's very important for an airport, which is the first thing people see when they arrive and the last thing they see when they leave," Weinstein said.

Leisure travelers gave higher ratings than business travelers, which is usually the case.

Passengers were critical about seating comfort in the gate areas, and they want a greater variety of shops, bars and restaurants.

"No one really expects to have a really good meal at an airport," said Pauline Armbrust, publisher of industry trade publication Airport Revenue News. "But passengers will notice the number of choices and type of choices."

Airport officials have been taking a closer look at DIA's concessions program this year and are trying to bring in more local business to create a unique Colorado experience. DIA recently announced the addition of two local companies, Heidi's Brooklyn Deli and New Belgium Brewing Co.

Passengers rated the Tattered Cover bookstore, CVS Pharmacy and Best Buy among the retail stores they'd most likely visit while at the airport. Starbucks, Coldstone Creamery and Outback Steakhouse ranked as some of the top food and beverage chains. The first Starbucks at DIA will open next year; none of the other businesses mentioned has a location at the airport.

DIA has been recording record revenues from its concessions, in large part because travelers are spending more time in airports. Through the first six months of 2006, concession revenue at DIA rose more than 8 percent compared with the same period last year amid record passenger levels, according to airport figures.

The airport plans to use the results of the survey - which will now be conducted quarterly - to make tangible changes and to serve as a benchmark going forward, said Pete Gingras, DIA's airport property officer.

The airport's current concessions layout is in large part based on a similar survey conducted for DIA before the airport even opened.

"Many of the (concessions) locations are where they are today because of that," Gingras said. "This gives us a fresh look and a sense of what the traveling public" wants.


DIA survey highlights

Scores for major areas of the airport, on a 100-point scale, with 100 being the best:

* In-terminal train    80

* Terminal facilities    78

* Check-in process    70

* Gate areas    69

* Security check point    63

* Food and beverage    54

* Retail services    53

* Overall    68


* Wait times to use restrooms    81

* Cleanliness of terminal/concourses    75

* Comfortable seating in gate area    59

* Having high-quality food and beverages    40

* Healthy choices at airport restaurants    33

*Scores Of 70 And Above Are Considered Among The Best In The Country; 60 To 69 Are "Good" To "Very Good"; 50 Is Just Passing; Below 45 Is "Failing ...

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