Tampa International still has bragging rights as one of the best airports in the country.
TIA ranked third among North America's medium -sized airports in a customer satisfaction survey by J.D. Power released this morning. Kansas City International and Portland (Ore.) International grabbed the top two spots in the category.
Tampa International received the same rank in the last J.D. Power survey two years ago. But, like airports overall, it posted higher scores this time around.
Travelers gave Tampa International the best ratings for terminals and baggage claim facilities among mid-sized airports, those handling 10 million to 30 million passengers annually, and second-best for check-in counters and security screening.
They specifically gave the airport high marks for clean terminals and rest rooms, easy-to-understand directional signs and quick luggage delivery to baggage claim. Security screening proceeded in a timely, professional manner, passengers said.
"Customer expectations might be evolving, but airports like Tampa International keep raising the bar,'' said Stuart Greif, vice president of the global hospitality and travel practice at J.D. Power. "It really is about the basics ... getting people in and out easily.''
The airport likely benefitted from progress on highway construction around Tampa International in the last year, said executive director Louis Miller. Also, The newest terminals for Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines — the airport's largest carriers — were built to accommodate more security checkpoint lines.
"We have among the lowest wait times in the country,'' said Miller. "If wait times go above a half hour, we send people out to help. The average is less than 20 minutes at peak times.''
Opened in 1971, Tampa International had a radical design for the time, with ''airside'' terminals for gates that were separate from the main terminal and connected by shuttle trains.
The airport has consistently scored well with travelers, including ranking as the nation's No. 2 major airport in 2009 in a Zagat/NBC Today Show survey. Tampa International won the top spot a year earlier.
Elsewhere in Florida, Orlando International ranked fourth and Miami International No. 17 among large airports. Fort Lauderdale was No. 12 among medium-sized airports and Jacksonville fourth among small airports.
Steve Huettel can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3384.