The Best (and Worst) Airports in North America, According to Travelers
Despite crowds, cancellations, and ongoing crew shortages, overall passenger satisfaction with the airport experience is starting to improve, a new J.D. Power survey shows. Here’s how airports in the U.S. and Canada rank.
It’s no secret that the return in air travel following the pandemic has been turbulent. But despite the challenges, including a return to prepandemic passenger volumes this year, an unrelenting pilot and air traffic controller shortage, and high numbers of delays and cancellations, overall passenger satisfaction has improved somewhat, according to a new study released by J.D. Power this week.
The survey of more than 27,147 travelers from the United States and Canada conducted August 2022 through July 2023 rated airports based on several factors, including terminal facilities; arrival and departure; baggage claim; security screening; check-in procedures; and food, beverage, and retail. Based on those key issues, overall airport satisfaction increased 3 points to 780 this year (based on a 1,000-point scale), after dipping a whopping 25 points in 2022.
The rise in the overall satisfaction score was driven primarily by terminal improvements, with terminal facilities, food, beverage and retail services, and the baggage claim experience all seeing the biggest rise in ratings.
“Many of the top-performing airports in the study have one thing in common: recently completed construction and redevelopment projects that have improved passenger flow, parking and terminal facilities. Nowhere is the positive effect of capital improvement clearer than in New York’s LaGuardia Airport, which has climbed from dead last in passenger satisfaction in 2019 to reach the large airport segment average this year,” the J.D. Power report stated.
That’s not too surprising considering that the entire U.S. air transport infrastructure system is in the midst of a long overdue renaissance as part of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which was passed in 2021 and set aside a whopping $25 billion to modernize the country’s airports—and better prepare them for a future that is likely to see millions of additional travelers heading into the skies in the coming years. Investments have been set aside to replace aging terminals, to reduce the risk of close calls and collisions on runways, to make airports cleaner and greener, and to fund major capacity expansion projects.
The growing satisfaction in the airport experience is translating to greater spending in North America’s hubs. This year, airport passengers spent an average of $3.47 more than last year when spending time in airport terminals.
But crowding to is still a concern for North American travelers. Sixty percent of the travelers surveyed said they have experienced severe or moderate crowding at the airport this year.
“It has not been an easy year for North American airports, but major capital improvements they’ve made over the last several years and new investments in getting food, beverage and retail operations back up and running at full capacity have helped them manage the crush of passengers,” noted Michael Taylor, managing director of travel, hospitality and retail at J.D. Power, which has been conducting this study for the past 18 years.
The best (and worst) airports in North America
In the J.D. Power 2023 North America Airport Satisfaction Study, airports were divided into three size categories: mega, large, and medium. Mega airports are defined as those handling 33 million or more passengers annually; large are airports with 10 million to 32.9 million passengers annually; and medium consists of airports that handle between 4.5 million and 9.9 million passengers each year.
The best mega airports in North America
- Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (800 points)
- Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport (796 points)
- Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas (787 points)
- Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport (783 points)
- Miami International Airport (783 points)
- San Francisco International Airport (781 points)
- Denver International Airport (777 points)
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (777 points)
- Orlando International Airport (777 points)
- George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston (776 points)
At the bottom of the J.D. Power list for mega airports are Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport, and Newark Liberty International Airport.
The best large airports in North America
- Tampa International Airport (832 points)
- John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California (829 points)
- Salt Lake City International Airport (825 points)
- Dallas Love Field (820 points)
- Raleigh-Durham International Airport (813 points)
- Sacramento International Airport (806 points)
- William P. Hobby Airport in Houston (806 points)
- Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (804 points)
- San Antonio International Airport (802 points)
- Calgary International Airport (801 points)
The lowest-ranked large airports on the J.D. Power list are Oakland International Airport, Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, Honolulu International Airport, and Philadelphia International Airport.
The best medium airports in North America
- Indianapolis International Airport (843 points)
- Southwest Florida International Airport (839 points)
- Ontario International Airport (834 points)
- Palm Beach International Airport (828 points)
- Albuquerque International Sunport (827 points)
- Jacksonville International Airport (821 points)
- Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky international Airport (817 points)
- Buffalo Niagara International Airport (813 points)
- General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (811 points)
- Pittsburgh International Airport (811 points)
The lowest-ranked medium airports are Bradley International Airport, Hollywood Burbank Airport, and Kahului Airport in Maui.
This story was originally published in September 2018, and was updated on September 20, 2023, to include current information.