Tampa International: North America’s best large airport, survey says

The 2022 J.D. Power study examined terminal facilities, baggage claim, food, beverage, retail, and other factors.
Recently, Tampa International moved forward with a $790 million new terminal, the first since 2005.
Recently, Tampa International moved forward with a $790 million new terminal, the first since 2005. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Sept. 22, 2022|Updated Sept. 22, 2022

TAMPA — After placing third in 2019 and second the past two years, Tampa International Airport was named best large airport in North America, according to a traveler satisfaction survey released Wednesday.

Now in its 17th year, the J.D. Power North America Airport Satisfaction Study is based on 26,529 completed surveys from U.S. or Canadian residents who traveled through at least one U.S. or Canadian airport during the past 30 days. The study was fielded from August 2021 through July 2022.

Tampa International Airport took top honors with an overall score of 846 on an 1,000-point scale, according to the report that measures overall traveler satisfaction across six factors, in order of importance: terminal facilities; airport arrival and departure; baggage claim; security check; check-in and baggage check; and food, beverage and retail.

John Wayne Airport, in California’s Orange County, ranked second with 826 points and Texas’ Dallas Love Field ranked third with 825 points. Philadelphia International Airport was at the bottom with a satisfaction score of 729.

Large airports are defined as those with 10 to 32.9 million passengers per year. The category average was 784.

Overall customer satisfaction with North American airports fell 25 points this year to 777 this year due in part to “rampant flight cancellations,” more crowded terminals and sparse food and beverage offerings, according to the report.

“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 — and it is likely to continue through 2023,” Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power, said in a statement.

Nationwide, parking has become a bigger issue, with its satisfaction of surface parking lots dropping 45 points from 2021. About 14% of respondents said parking was more expensive than expected, up from 11% in 2019 and 12% in 2021, according to J.D. Power.

Inflation also appears to have hit the airport: 24% of travelers surveyed said they did not make any food or beverage purchases at the airport because they were too expensive, up from 20% in 2021.

Recently, Tampa International moved forward with a $790 million new terminal, the first since 2005. Its construction marks the final step of a three-phase master plan to accommodate millions of new passengers expected in the coming years.

Construction is expected to begin next year, and the terminal will likely open in 2027.

Meanwhile, employees of airport vendors and airport contractors, in Tampa and nationwide, feel overlooked and underpaid and are fighting for a living wage. The Good Jobs for Good Airports Act, introduced in Congress this summer, is supported by a slate of unions who say it would help recognize the essential role airport workers play in keeping Americans moving and alleviate labor shortages and fast turnover rates plaguing the industry.