Raleigh-Durham International Airport remains among North America’s top-rated airports for customer satisfaction, but customers are less satisfied than they were a year ago.
RDU tied for fourth among 27 large airports in the annual passenger survey done by the consumer analytics firm J.D. Power. That’s down from third in last year’s survey.
Overall, customer satisfaction scores declined this year, after reaching all-time highs in the previous survey. The earlier survey covered late 2020 through the first half of 2021, when airports were still relatively empty because of COVID-19.
But as crowds have returned, so have lines for security, ticket counters and restaurants, along with challenges finding a place to park.
On top of that, airlines and airport concessions have struggled with a shortage of workers, resulting in an unusually high number of canceled flights and difficulty getting rebooked or a bite to eat.
“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,” Michael Taylor, who advises airlines and airports for J.D. Power, said in a written statement. “And it is likely to continue through 2023.”
The study, based on 26,529 passenger surveys from August 2021 through July 2022, looks at airport performance in six categories: terminal facilities; airport arrival/departure; baggage claim; security check; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and retail.
RDU rated relatively well on facilities and security screening, Taylor said, but like a lot of airports has struggled to keep passengers happy with food/beverage and retail. RDU is still working to replace eateries that shut down during the pandemic, and travelers sometimes wait in long lines, particularly during the early morning rush, to get coffee or something to eat.
RDU ranks well among large airports
J.D. Power divides airports in the U.S. and Canada into three categories based on passenger volume: medium, large and “mega.”
The average score for large airports, out of possible 1,000, was 784 this year, down from 805 last year.
RDU had 813 points this year, compared to 841 last year. RDU finished tied for fourth with Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, behind Tampa International, John Wayne Airport in California and Dallas Love Field.
Bringing up the bottom in the large category was Philadelphia, just ahead of Honolulu.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport is among the 20 mega airports, each handling 33 million or more passengers a year. Charlotte-Douglas finished in the middle for passenger satisfaction, with 768 points, just behind Miami and ahead of Phoenix Sky Harbor. The top rated mega airport was Minneapolis-Saint Paul; the worst was Newark Liberty.
No other North Carolina airports were included in the J.D. Power survey.
There are 18 airports in the medium category, handling 4.5 million to 9.9 million passengers a year. The top rated was Indianapolis, while Hollywood Burbank in California ranked last.
While down from last year, the overall satisfaction scores are still higher than they were in 2019, before the pandemic. That may be because despite the crowds this summer air travel has not returned to pre-pandemic levels. Through August, passenger traffic at RDU is about 78% of where it was in 2019.
“In some ways, this is a return to normal as larger crowds at airports tend to make travelers more frazzled,” Taylor said. “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.”
Read the full article here