WASHINGTON -- A new survey and study provides some evidence as to
what passengers want most from an airport, how their expectations
have changed since 9/11 and which airports they believe are the
best in meeting their needs.
For example, changes in security procedures since 9/11 have
resulted in a "dramatic effect" on passenger priorities and
behavior, according to J.D. Power and Associates, which has
conducted the Global Airport Satisfaction Study every year since
The study's authors said the changes mean passengers, especially
in North American airports, are more likely to interact with
airline and airport security staff as well as with other airport
"This increased exposure to airport personnel has heightened
passengers' sensitivity to professionalism and courtesy," J.D.
Power said when asked for trends that emerged from the newest
Another change: Passengers, worried about the possibility of
long security lines, are arriving earlier.
That has increased the importance of the variety, quality and
gate-proximity of food and retail concessions as well as of comfort
and entertainment options in the gate area.
The most important factors for customer satisfaction, however,
are still the most basic.
"Getting to the terminal" topped the rankings. Travelers are
concerned about how long it takes to get to the airport and how
easy or difficult it is to drop someone off.
"Leaving the airport" ranked second. Travelers don't want to
struggle to find the taxi, train, subway, parking lot or exit.
Here are some other factors passengers said were important:
• The check-in process. In a sign of continuing post-9/11
jitters, passengers said the most important element of this process
is to make them feel safe. Waiting times and courtesy and
professionalism of the staff essentially tied as the second most
• Baggage claim, mainly whether bags arrive and how long it
takes to retrieve them.
• Terminal facilities. The biggest factor in this category is
the courtesy and helpfulness of airport information staff or anyone
with an airport or airline ID badge. The second biggest factor:
feeling of personal safety. A close third: the cleanliness of the
airport rest rooms.
"The best airport scores are generally the result of an
aggressive rest room refurbishment program," J.D. Power said.
• Security check. This category has become twice as important to
customers since 2001, and what passengers most want is for the
process to make them feel safe.
That's a change from previous years, when passengers felt the
security check was a minor nuisance and wanted to get through it as
quickly as possible.
The second most important element in this category -- notice a
pattern? -- is the courtesy and professionalism of security staff.
The time required for the process ranked last, although J.D. Power
noted the result may have been affected a bit by the inclusion in
the study of some smaller airports, where lines tend to be
So which airports are doing the best job?
The 12,000 travelers surveyed at about 61 airports ranked
Singapore's Changi Airport the best. Frankfurt Airport ranked
highest among large airports, defined as those handling more than
30 million passengers a year.
That was a dramatic improvement for Frankfurt, which didn't even
crack the top 10 the previous year.
Frankfurt's rating got a big boost from new rail and shuttle
services between terminals and to parking lots, said Linda
Hirneise, a partner in the J.D. Power and Associates travel
practice. Customer approval of the airport's 180 retail, food and
beverage establishments also helped, she said.
For a copy of the study, contact Hirneise at (805) 418-8200.
To contact reporter Andrew Compart, send e-mail to [email protected].