As any experienced traveler can attest to, vacation plans can be significantly impacted by the airports that many choose to travel through. From delayed flights to missed connections, long security lines, dismal food options, and lost luggage, there are a number of ways that things can and will go wrong. Fortunately, not all airports are created equal. While some are guaranteed to ruin your day, if not your entire trip, others do go above and beyond to provide top-notch service on those long days of travel. The trick is distinguishing between the two.
Thankfully, J.D. Power, a global leader in consumer intelligence on tourism, has done the homework for us. Between August 2020 and July 2021, the company conducted its annual North America Airport Satisfaction Survey. For this survey, 13,225 travelers were asked to evaluate either their departing or arriving airport, paying close attention to the following factors:
- Terminal Facilities
- Airport Arrival/Departure
- Baggage Claim
- Security Check
- Check-In/Baggage Check
- Food, Beverage, and Retail
Using the information gathered from passengers, J.D. Power was able to calculate and name the best and worst airports in the country, essentially creating one of the most important travel tips that is sure to benefit us all!
The Three Best Airports in America
The survey conducted by J.D. Power graded each airport on a 1,000-point scale. Airports were divided up according to size, with an emphasis placed mainly on airports that fall into the mega and large size categories. Due to limited passenger volume over the past year, medium and small sized airports could not be adequately evaluated. Those airports that took the top coveted spots for this survey all scored above 840 points and fell into the large airport category.
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport
Jumping up ten spots from last year, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport has been named this year’s top airport by J.D. Power. With a final score of 844, this recently revamped airport received the highest score, beating out the rest of its competition in both the mega and large airport categories. This rating can largely be attributed to the airport’s new terminal, a world-class terminal complex introduced in 2019. This state-of-the art terminal, which completely replaces the existing airport, was built with the goal of improving the flying experience for everyday travelers – something it certainly seems to have achieved!
Some of the airport’s highlights, as pointed out by travelers, include its streamlined security checkpoint, enhanced cleaning measures, and expanded parking, which features Park Assist, an automated system that directs passengers to available parking spots. In addition to this, the airport has received national recognition for its dining and beverage options. Drawing upon New Orleans cuisine, the airport now offers a wide variety of local fare that visitors just can’t seem to get enough of. The food here is so popular that non-ticketed visitors can purchase a pass to gain access to the airport’s restaurants! On top of this, the airport even has an entertainment center complete with live music – so you can listen to the classic jazz sounds of NOLA while you chow down on your Po-Boy. If that isn’t the ultimate airport experience, then I don’t know what is!
Tampa International Airport
Coming in at a very close second is Tampa International Airport with 843 points. Over the past seven years, Tampa has consistently ranked in the top five spots for large airports – and this year, they are the second-best airport overall. Loved by many travelers who frequent Florida, this airport has received high praise for its efficient and quick security checkpoints, overall cleanliness, practical layout, and free parking for pick-ups and drop-offs. The airport, which is located only fifteen minutes from downtown Tampa, has also received recognition for its convenient location and easy access.
It’s also worth mentioning that Tampa International is home to an expansive selection of shopping and dining options. With over 70 shops and restaurants to choose from, there’s plenty to keep you entertained while you wait for your flight. Some of the most popular restaurants in the airport include those that feature local Tampa fare, such as Ulele, Goody Goody, and Columbia Cafe. There’s even Cigar City Brewing, a local brewery that brews its own beer right on-site. It’s one of only two active breweries in the entire world that operates out of an airport! And of course, we can’t forget about the airport’s spa and art exhibits, all added touches that work to ensure your flying experience is as relaxing and entertaining as possible!
Raleigh-Durham International Airport
Moving up six spots from last year, Raleigh-Durham International Airport came in third place with 841 points. This increase in customer satisfaction can largely be attributed to the airport’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only has the airport implemented several safety measures, including enhanced cleaning, contactless parking and payment, and sanitation stations, but the airport has also been very transparent with its guidelines and procedures. They even created a website, “Fly Confident, Fly RDU,” as a means to share information, provide resources, and support travelers during these unprecedented times.
The airport has also received wide praise for its expeditious security checkpoints, on-time departures, efficient arrival procedures, and amenity offerings. In addition to this, the airport recently expanded its dining options to include several North Carolina-based restaurants, for which they have received positive feedback. These new dining options, coupled with the airport’s retail experience, all work together to ensure that passengers remain entertained and well-fed as they travel to and from their destinations.
The Three Worst Airports in America
The airports that scored the lowest on the J.D. Power Airport Survey spanned both the mega and large airports categories. They all fell below 785 points in the ranking system and were previously awarded the label of “worst airport” by other surveys conducted by different organizations and companies outside of J.D. Power.
Philadelphia International Airport
Coming in with a final score of 758 points, Philadelphia International Airport received the lowest ranking of all the airports listed on the J.D. Power Survey. In fact, the airport has continuously ranked in the bottom five for the past six years and has been identified as one of the worst airports in previous rankings published by the Wall Street Journal and Business Insider.
Some of the biggest complaints about the airport include its outdated facilities, prolonged delays at security checkpoints, slow Wi-Fi, and a general lack of accessibility to the airport itself – which, to be fair, can largely be attributed to traffic congestion in the surrounding area. Some passengers have also raised concern about the overall layout of the airport, stating it takes far too long to get from point A to point B, and there are very few systems in place, such as moving walkways, to compensate for this.
Chicago O’Hare International Airport
This year O’Hare International Airport came in second to last place with a total score of 772. This makes it the second-worst airport overall and the worst airport among those that fall in the mega category. Unfortunately, Chicago airport is no stranger to this designation, as it has received low ratings for the past several years. The airport has also been identified as one of the worst in the country on travel surveys previously conducted by U.S. News and Finance Buzz.
Considered to be one of the busiest airports in the country, it should come as no surprise to hear that some of the largest complaints against the airport include overcrowded facilities and long lines at check-in, baggage drop, and security checkpoints. Some passengers have also complained about short notice gate changes and layovers that don’t afford travelers enough time to get from one gate to another. In addition to this, the airport is notorious for flight delays, especially in the winter months when extreme weather conditions are known to cause frequent delays and, in some cases, even flight cancellations – although you can’t really blame the airport for this one, there’s not much they can do to control the weather, after all.
Coming in as the third worst airport in America is LaGuardia Airport, which received a total score of 781. Again, this designation is not new for LaGuardia, which has received previous low ratings from J.D. Power and other publications, including the Wall Street Journal and Business Insider.
The biggest problem that LaGuardia Airport seems to face is the fact that it’s a relatively small airport, and yet, it provides service to and from one of America’s biggest cities – New York City. Not only is the airport unable to handle the volume of passengers it receives, but it also doesn’t even have enough space on the runway to accommodate all the airplanes that are trying to land and take off. Because of this, passengers constantly complain about excessive wait times, flight delays, and missed connections. Let’s also not forget that the airport is quite old and in much need of structural repairs and maybe even a little upgrading to modernize it.
There you have it, the latest list of America’s best and worst airports as rated by your fellow travelers. Hopefully, now armed with this information, travelers will be able to make more informed decisions regarding their own travels. After all, travel days are already stressful enough; the last thing anyone wants is to experience additional complications, delays, or mishaps while en route to their final destination!