Jul. 12--Long waits at baggage claim and in food court lines knocked Orlando International Airport from the top spot this year in a widely regarded airport customer-satisfaction survey.
Orlando International Airport tumbled 13 spots from its lofty perch and fell below the average for large airports, according to the 2006 J.D. Power and Associates North America Airport Satisfaction Study.
Orlando scored low marks in the areas of baggage claim and food, beverage and retail, but kept pace with its peer airports for check-in services, security checkpoints and terminal facilities, according to the study.
In 2004, the last time the survey was conducted, Orlando scored highest among U.S. airports with more than 30 million passengers per year and fell second only to Hong Kong globally.
Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport took the top spot this year followed by John F. Kennedy International in New York and Philadelphia International. Miami International scored three notches ahead of Orlando in the study.
"This year the methodology changed and so did our ranking," Orlando airport spokeswoman Carolyn Fennell said Tuesday in a prepared statement. "We anticipate receiving and analyzing the complete survey and with our airlines and concessions taking appropriate measures to address the report's findings."
Since 2000, Orlando had consistently ranked in the top five for its size. J.D. Power changed the timing of the survey this year conducting it in the spring rather than the fall and also screened respondents for only those who had traveled in the past month rather than the past year.
Orlando counted more than 34 million passengers last year, making it the busiest airport in Florida. According to figures for May released Tuesday, the airport is on track to exceed that number this year.
Jim Gaz, senior director travel and entertainment for J.D. Power, said Orlando fell behind in baggage claim with an average wait by customers to retrieve their luggage of 17.7 minutes.
The industry average wait time is nearly identical at 17.5 minutes, but Gaz said passengers also rated Orlando low on the physical condition and cleanliness of the baggage-claim area. Gaz said 79 percent of Orlando passengers check at least one bag, one of the highest percentages in the nation.
Travelers also reported low marks this year for the airport's food and beverage service and retail shops, key generators of revenue for the airport in recent years. About 52 percent of people who pass through the airport buy food or beverages, according to the study.
"The cost and speed of service are areas where Orlando does not fare so well relative to other large airports," Gaz said.
Likewise, the airport's retail shops also were marked down for prices and lack of variety, Gaz said.
Orlando International officials have struggled in recent months to reduce security checkpoint wait times that have, at times, exceeded 45 minutes. But the survey showed Orlando to be on par with other large airports in customer satisfaction with security.
The average security line reported by those surveyed was just 14.4 minutes in Orlando compared with 14.8 minutes for other large airports in the study.
The survey included 9,833 respondents who had airport experiences in the first quarter of this year, including 620 evaluations of Orlando International.
Miami-based aviation consultant Stuart Klaskin said he was surprised that Orlando fell behind airports with customer unfriendly reputations such as Philadelphia and JFK.
"Except for McCarran, it would seem to me like you're reading a list of bottom airports," he said of the top five.
Beth Kassab can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5448.
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