• By The Financial District

TRAVEL SATISFACTION SOARS TO RECORD HIGH - FOR ALL THE WRONG REASONS

A year ago, the biggest challenge confronting North American airports was overcrowding. Today, they are comparatively empty. While the sharp decline in volume is a big problem for airport revenue, it has been a boon for traveler satisfaction.

According to the J.D. Power 2020 North America Airport Satisfaction Study, satisfaction with North American airports has risen sharply since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, reaching a record high of 784 (on a 1,000-point scale) as passengers breeze through security checkpoints, baggage claim and food and retail services.

“Over the Labor Day weekend, airport passenger volumes climbed to 40% of year-ago levels as travelers slowly started to trickle back onto airplanes,” said Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power. “Compared to the pre-COVID-19 environment when most airports were running significantly over capacity, the lack of crowds and long lines is actually creating a very convenient experience for travelers right now. Obviously, this lower passenger volume is not sustainable for most airports. Airport managers are doing all they can to provide a safe and clean environment to facilitate a rebound in travel.”

Following are some key findings of the 2020 study:

§ Satisfaction reaches record high as volume dwindles: The overall customer satisfaction score this year for North American airports is a record-high 784, up 22 points from 2019. This unprecedented leap in satisfaction is driven by significant improvements in satisfaction with the check-in and in the food, beverage and retail factors. Passengers also have provided airport terminals with high marks for cleanliness, less crowding and lower noise levels—all of which are positively affected by record-low passenger volumes.

§ Mall-like experience and local color drive highest levels of satisfaction: The common bond among top-ranked airports such as Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Dallas Love Field and Indianapolis International Airport is an open, airy experience that feels more like a well-designed shopping mall than an airport. These airports also do a good job of conveying local flavor in their passenger experience, from food and beverage offerings that feature regional specialties to design cues that evoke local color.

§ Many passengers applaud airport response to COVID-19: Nearly one-third (30%) of travelers say their opinion of the airport they traveled through has improved after seeing its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than two-thirds (68%) say their opinion has not changed and just 2% say they have a more negative view of their airport since the pandemic.

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