Look at ratings to avoid the worst airports
With airport ratings, checking out the “best” list doesn’t really matter much. After all, if you want to go to Albuquerque, the fact that Orlando Airport earns better scores doesn’t help much.
At the other end of the scale, however, looking at the “worst” airport lists can sometimes help you decrease your risk of problems and hassles:
- At a multi-airport city, you might want to try for a flight to/from the better of the alternatives.
- If you’re making a connection, you might want to select an itinerary that avoids the least friendly hub airports.
Bad big airports
According to the latest J. D. Power survey of U.S. airport customer satisfaction, a few rate well below average for their size:
- The lowest-rated mega airports are New York/JFK, Chicago/O’Hare, Los Angeles, and Newark.
- The lowest-rated large airports are Philadelphia and New York/La Guardia; in fact, La Guardia scores lowest of all airports in the report.
- The lowest-ranking medium airports — the smallest that Power studied — are Columbus, Omaha, San Antonio, Kahului, Cleveland, and Hartford-Springfield. But all six earn scores that are well above the average scored in the larger two groups.
Cities with a choice
You have no real alternative in most U.S. cities. If you’re heading to Philadelphia, for example, you can’t escape its low-scoring airport. But seven big U.S. metro areas provide two or more alternatives, some with varying satisfaction scores:
- Chicago: Midway outscores O’Hare by at least a little bit.
- Dallas-Ft. Worth: Love Field outscores International, but both score well.
- Houston: Both airports score well.
- Los Angeles: Burbank and Orange County outscore International; Long Beach isn’t scored.
- New York: All three mega airports earn embarrassingly low scores, but JFK does somewhat better than La Guardia or Newark, which are the only airports scoring below 700 on Power’s 1,000-point scale.
- San Francisco: International outscores Oakland and San Jose, but all score reasonably well.
- Washington: Baltimore, Dulles and Reagan National all score well and about the same.
A new consideration in airport choice is emerging: avoiding city traffic congestion. Urban traffic jams have become so annoying that “other side of town” airports are starting to become important.
In the San Francisco Bay area, for example, traffic across the Golden Gate Bridge and through the city has become so bad for folks heading to/from Marin and Sonoma that airlines have recently added a bunch of new destinations and flights at Santa Rosa.
Seattle traffic has become bad enough that Alaska has decided to start flying to/from Everett, north of the city center, with other lines to follow.
And you see frequent reports from folks in Georgia, who want to open a new Atlanta airport north of the city.
Although access to Manhattan is terrible, travelers heading to/from some parts of the New York area can minimize traffic problems by flying at Islip, Newburgh, or White Plains, despite much fewer flight options.
J.D. Power scores can also help influence choice of hub airports:
- Avoid hubbing in New York/Newark or New York/JFK on any airline connections if alternatives are available. Both airports are especially difficult for connections between different airlines.
- American’s hubs at Charlotte and Dallas-Ft. Worth International outscore its hubs at Chicago/O’Hare and Philadelphia.
- Delta’s main hubs at Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Salt Lake City all score well.
- United’s hubs at Newark and Chicago/ O’Hare both score poorly; Houston/ Bush, San Francisco and Washington/ Dulles are better alternatives when they work.
The Power study did not include any foreign airports, but Munich has become Europe’s consensus “best hub.” Low-fare travelers also find Reykjavik an easy airport to navigate, although rapid traffic growth is apparently creating some crowding.
At this point, Asia’s many big, new airports all make hubbing relatively easy, although you can expect some long walks.
Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2018 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.