In J.D. Power’s recently released 2017 North America Airport Satisfaction Study — which measures overall traveler satisfaction with mega, large and medium-sized North American airports by examining (in this order of importance) terminal facilities; airport accessibility; security check; baggage claim; check-in/baggage check; food, beverage and retail — Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport ranks fourth of 18 in the mega category.
“The trifecta of a steadily improving economy, record passenger volume and billion-dollar renovation projects unfolding in airports across the country has created a challenging environment for customer satisfaction. The fact that many airports are overcoming those challenges is incredibly instructive for the industry as it remodels and improves airport infrastructure,” says Michael Taylor, Travel Practice lead at J.D. Power, who notes that airports are responding to the difficulties with new technologies and old-fashioned personal skills.
Sky Harbor has registered improved customer satisfaction since it began deploying a team of therapy dogs for passengers to pet while they wait to board. Other airports with similar high-touch traveler outreach initiatives are San Francisco International, where a pet therapy pig roams the terminal looking for pets and selfies, and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport, with more than 30 stress-relieving ponies on staff with which travelers can interact.
And tech investment helps overcome logistical hurdles. For example, Sacramento International Airport has developed a smartphone app that tells travelers where they can find a parking spot, and virtually every airport in the country has invested heavily in improving phone-charging stations and internet access in their terminals. Sky Harbor, with its free Wi-Fi, has long been among the most Internet user-friendly airports.
Now in its 12th year, the study is based on responses from 34,695 North American travelers who traveled through at least one domestic airport with both departure and arrival experiences (including connecting airports) over a three-month period this past summer.
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