Study: PHL, Continental, JetBlue rank highest in customer satisfaction

Customer satisfaction with airports is declining, says the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 North America Airport Satisfaction Study released today.

In its eighth year, the study says overall satisfaction is 675 on a 1,000 point scale in 2008, down 14 points from 2007.

Customer satisfaction with airports had increased steadily from 2002 to 2006, but mounting flight delays, cancellations, air traffic issues and staff and service cutbacks for much of last year and early 2008 hurt the score, it said.

It measured six factors: airport accessibility; baggage claim; check-in/baggage check process; terminal facilities; security check; and food and retail services. Airports scored lower than other travel industries: hotels (758), rental cars (750) and airlines (687).

• Among large airports (30 million passengers plus per year), Philadelphia ranked highest in overall customer satisfaction, improving by five rank positions since 2007. It performed particularly well in the terminal facilities and baggage claim, it said. Las Vegas McCarran and Orlando, in a tie, round out the top three. Minneapolis-St. Paul ranked last among the 19 large airports.

• Among medium airports (10 million to 30 million passengers), Chicago Midway, New York LaGuardia and Memphis were ranked in the top three, respectively. Oakland ranked last.

• Among small airports (fewer than 10 million passengers), Dallas Love Field, Houston Hobby and San Antonio ranked in the top three. Tucson ranked last.

Continental and JetBlue are the only North American airlines that are "among the best" in consumer satisfaction, says the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Airline Satisfaction Study released today. The two carriers were given its five "power circles" for the category.

Delta was considered "better than most" (four circles). Southwest, Frontier, Alaska, American and United were considered "about average" (three circles).

AirTran, Air Canada, Northwest and US Airways fared below average (two circles).

The survey also ranked (five circles) as the best in overall customers satisfaction. Travelocity and Expedia received four and three circles, respectively. Cheaptickets, Orbitz, and Priceline fared below average, with two circles.

Other key findings:

• The average length of flight delays was 68 minutes.

• Fewer customers are checking bags, 66% in 2008 vs. 77% in 2007.

• Women are generally more dissatisfied than men.

• Passengers are more satisfied with connecting airports than originating or destination airports.

• Customers spent less money on food and beverage in 2008 ($11.22 per purchase) than in 2007 ($11.91). Retail spending also fell to $21.54 in 2008 vs. $25.54 in 2007.