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People Really Don't Like Flying Anymore

A new study shows that airline customer satisfaction levels have declined this summer.

Last year, the research firm J.D. Power found that air traveler satisfaction with North American airports reached an all-time high. 

Of course, there’s two caveats there. Once covid vaccines became available, people were so grateful to travel that, naturally, they’d rate the experience pretty highly. Also, people were overall hesitant to travel last year, especially after variants like omicron began appearing, so the overall sample sizes were going to be on the smaller side.

Now, J.D. Power  (JD)  reports that global passenger levels are nearly back up to 91% of pre-pandemic levels. So more people are flying than in the last two years. And according to J.D. Power’s latest survey, they’re having a much worse time.

Customers Unhappy With Their Experience

The latest study shows that overall customer satisfaction is down 25 points, on a 1,000-point scale, to 777. 

The study “is based on 26,529 completed surveys from U.S. or Canadian residents who traveled through at least one U.S. or Canadian airport and covers both departure and arrival experiences (including connecting airports) during the past 30 days.”

Those surveys paint a picture of a customer base that is sick of inflation making food and beverage more expensive, crowded terminals and the increases prevalence of flight delays and cancellations, owing to climate-change induced weather, covid-related crew shortages and other supply chain issues.

“The combination of pent-up demand for air travel, the nationwide labor shortage and steadily rising prices on everything from jet fuel to a bottle of water have created a scenario in which airports are extremely crowded and passengers are increasingly frustrated — and it is likely to continue through 2023,” said Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power. 

“In some ways, this is a return to normal as larger crowds at airports tend to make travelers more frazzled, but in cases where parking lots are over capacity, gates are standing room only and restaurants and bars are not even open to offer some reprieve, it is clear that increased capacity in airports can’t come soon enough.”

Other key findings from J.D. Power show that:

  • 58% of airport travelers describe the airport terminal as severely or moderately crowded. In 2019, 59% of travelers said their airport was severely or moderately crowded.
  • 24% of travelers say they did not make any food or beverage purchases at the airport because they were too expensive. According to the study, that’s up from 20% in 2021 and 23% in 2019. 
  • Customers are increasingly frustrated that parking space are hard to come by, and 14% of travelers say parking was more expensive than they expected, up from 12% in 2021 and 11% in 2019.
Busy airport Lead JS

Which Airports Rank The Highest In Customer Satisfaction?

J.D. Power also surveyed customer’s satisfaction with a number of American and Canadian airports, ranked by size from mega to large to medium. The Overall Customer Satisfaction Index Ranking were based on a 1,000 point scale.

  • The Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport ranks highest in passenger satisfaction among mega airports, with a score of 800. San Francisco International Airport (796) ranks second at 796 and Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport are tied for third with 791. Newark Liberty International Airport ranked lowest at 719.
  • Tampa International Airport ranks highest among large airports with a score of 846. It’s followed by John Wayne Airport, Orange County at 826 and Dallas Love Field at 825. Philadelphia International airport is last at 729.
  • Indianapolis International Airport ranks number one for medium airports with a score of 842. Pittsburgh International Airport ranks second with 839 while Jacksonville International Airport and Southwest Florida International Airport are tied for third with 826. Hollywood Burbank Airport is last with 763.