Atlanta's airport slides in customer satisfaction

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 05/20/08

Customers are increasingly unhappy with Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, according to a just-released J.D. Power and Associates study.

Atlanta's airport, the world's busiest, moved from third to eighth place on the annual survey of customer satisfaction, which looks at everything from food service to security line wait times at U.S. airports. Lengthy security waits have been a major complaint at Hartsfield-Jackson, which recently launched a $25 million program to increase the number of security lanes at the airport.

Top 10 large airports (30 million passengers or more per year) in customer satisfaction:

Philadelphia International
McCarran International
Orlando International
George Bush Intercontinental/Houston
Phoenix Sky Harbor
Miami International
John F. Kennedy International
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International
Newark International
Charlotte Douglas International
— Source: J.D. Power and Associates 2008 North America Airport Satisfaction Study

• Passengers rate airline service worst since 2001

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The J.D. Power study, which coincided with a period of notably high rates of flight delays between April 2007 and May 2008, finds that overall satisfaction is 675 on a 1,000-point scale in 2008 — down 14 points from 2007. More than one in five passengers report experiencing a delay.

In addition, customer satisfaction with airports is considerably lower than satisfaction levels in other aspects of the travel industry in which the company conducts studies: hotels (758), rental cars (750) and airlines (687).

"When air passengers are forced to wait out delays in airports for departing flights, they are essentially a captive audience, and their frustration and stress levels affect their satisfaction with airport operations and amenities," said Jim Gaz, senior director of travel and entertainment at J.D. Power and Associates.

In particular, customer satisfaction with the security check aspect of the airport experience has declined considerably since 2007.

"Service inconsistencies in the security check process from airport to airport are particularly frustrating for customers, who report lower satisfaction with the professionalism of security staff and the ability of the security check process to make them feel safe, compared with 2007," Gaz said.

Philadelphia International ranked highest in overall customer satisfaction among large airports, improving by five rank positions since 2007 and performing particularly well in the terminal facilities and baggage claim factors.

Among the studies overall findings on U.S. airports.

For customers reporting that their flight was delayed, the length of the delay was 68 minutes on average.

The percentage of customers checking bags has declined considerably, from 77 percent in 2007 to 66 percent in 2008.

Men are less satisfied with the security check aspect of their airport experience than women, on average. Among males, the average satisfaction score is 655 for security check, while among females the average score is 668

Passengers are typically more satisfied with their experiences in connecting airports than in originating or destination airports. On average, connecting passengers spend 82 minutes waiting for their connecting flight. Satisfaction with the connecting airport begins to decline when the wait is longer than 90 minutes.

Customers spent slightly less money on food and beverage purchases in 2008 ($11.22), compared with 2007 ($11.91). Retail spending, however, has decreased by an average of $4.00, from $25.54 in 2007 to $21.54 in 2008.

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