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Detroit, Tampa, Indianapolis Named North America’s Top 3 Airports

JD Power's annual rankings of North America's best airports have been released, with Detroit Metropolitan being named the best one handling over 300 million passengers per year

by Lauren Smith

September 26, 2023

Photo: Detroit International Airport. Courtesy of Hanson-Lu / Unsplash

Air travel can be hectic and exhausting, but travelers lucky enough to pass through Detroit, Tampa, and Indianapolis have smoother journeys. J.D. Power has named those city’s airports its top three for customer satisfaction this year.

The market research firm published its annual North American Airport Satisfaction Study this week, polling passengers about their experience and ranking the continent’s airports on their performance.

The rankings considered six metrics: terminal facilities, arrival and departure, baggage claim, security check, check-in and baggage check, and food, beverage, and retail services.

Detroit on Top

Among mega airports that handle over 33 million passengers a year, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) performed the best, scoring 800.

The Michigan airport, a major hub for Delta and its SkyTeam partners, pushed last year’s top mega airport, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP), to second place. Las Vegas’ Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) rounded out the top three mega airports.

Photo: Detroit Airport’s Connecting Tunnel. Courtesy of Augusto Navarro / Unsplash

On the other end of the spectrum, Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ), and Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SEA) were the worst-performing mega airports.

Tampa Is Leading Its Category

For the second year running, Tampa International Airport (TPA) posted the best score among large airports (those that see 10 to 32.9 million passengers a year). It was joined by John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Orange County, California, and Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) in the top three.

Photo: Courtesy of Tampa International Airport

Indianapolis International Airport (IND) held the top position in the medium airports category (those receiving between 4.5 and 9.9 million passengers annually). It racked up the best score of any airport, 843 out of 1,000.

Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW), located near Fort Myers, and Ontario International Airport (ONT), in San Bernardino, California, were awarded second and third place, respectively.

Philadelphia at the Bottom

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) was the worst-performing large airport, while Kahului Airport (OGG) in Maui, Hawaii, scored the lowest among medium airports.

Photo: Courtesy of Philadelphia International Airport

Overall, traveler satisfaction with airports increased in 2023 despite ongoing turbulence as the industry recovered from its pandemic shutdown and coped with crowding, staff shortages, and bad winter weather.

In particular, passengers reported greater satisfaction with airport terminals, baggage claims, and food, beverage, and retail services.

“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,” Michael Taylor, J.D. Power’s managing director of travel, hospitality, and retail, said in a statement.

Photo: The new terminal opening at LaGuardia International Airport on Monday, May 30, 2022. Courtesy of Delta Air Lines / Chris Rank, Rank Studios

For example, New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) has dramatically reversed its fortunes with a $4 billion renovation of its terminals. Once slated by then-Vice President Joe Biden and ranked dead last among large airports by J.D. Power in 2019, it’s now comfortably in the middle of the pack.

Better airport performance isn’t just about easing travel stress: less harried visitors spend significantly more at airports. J.D. Power found that passengers reporting higher satisfaction shelled out $44 during their visit, compared to $29 among those reporting lower scores.

But J.D. Power warned airports that crowding in terminals and lounges could erode that satisfaction. About 60% of the passengers it surveyed said they’ve encountered severe or moderate overcrowding at an airport terminal, up two percentage points since 2022.

“Happy passengers spend a lot more money at the airport, so ongoing efforts to spread passenger volumes throughout the day and deliver superior service at all customer touchpoints will be critical,” Taylor said.

Ranking Mega Airports

Rank Airport Score (out of 1,000)

  1. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County (DTW) 800
  2. Minneapolis-St. Paul International (MSP) 796
  3. Las Vegas Harry Reid International (LAS) 787
  4. Dallas Fort Worth International (DFW) 783
  5. Miami International (MIA) 783
  6. San Francisco International (SFO) 781
  7. Denver International (DEN) 777
  8. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL) 777
  9. Orlando International (MCO) 777
  10. New York John F. Kennedy International (JFK) 773
  11. Charlotte Douglas International (CLT) 772
  12. Phoenix Sky Harbor International (PHX) 769
  13. Los Angeles International (LAX) 765
  14. Chicago O’Hare International (ORD) 763
  15. Boston Logan International (BOS) 762
  16. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FLL) 762
  17. Seattle-Tacoma International (SEA) 754
  18. Toronto Pearson (YYZ) 749
  19. Newark Liberty International (EWR) 732

Ranking Large Airports

  1. Tampa International (TPA) 832
  2. Santa Ana John Wayne (SNA) 829
  3. Salt Lake City International (SLC) 825
  4. Dallas Love Field (DAL) 820
  5. Raleigh-Durham International (RDU) 813
  6. Sacramento International (SMF) 806
  7. Houston William P. Hobby (HOU) 806
  8. Louis Armstrong New Orleans International (MSY) 804
  9. San Antonio International (SAT) 802
  10. Calgary International (YYC) 801
  11. Nashville International (BNA) 799
  12. Portland International (PDX) 797
  13. Kansas City International (MCI) 788
  14. New York LaGuardia (LGA) 788
  15. Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall (BWI) 787
  16. Vancouver International (YVR) 787
  17. Washington Dulles International (IAD) 784
  18. Austin-Bergstrom International (AUS) 783
  19. Chicago Midway International (MDW) 780
  20. Ronald Reagan Washington National (DCA) 779
  21. Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International (SJC) 776
  22. St. Louis Lambert International (STL) 775
  23. San Diego International (SAN) 772
  24. Oakland International (OAK) 768
  25. Montreal-Trudeau International (YUL) 759
  26. Honolulu Daniel K. Inouye International (HNL) 753
  27. Philadelphia International (PHL) 750

Ranking Medium Airports

  1. Indianapolis International (IND) 843
  2. Southwest Florida International (RSW) 839
  3. Ontario International (ONT) 834
  4. Palm Beach International (PBI) 828
  5. Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ) 827
  6. Jacksonville International (JAX) 821
  7. Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International (CVG) 817
  8. Buffalo Niagara International (BUF) 813
  9. Milwaukee Mitchell International (MKE) 811
  10. Pittsburgh International (PIT) 811
  11. John Glenn Columbus International (CMH) 807
  12. Omaha Eppley Airfield (OMA) 804
  13. Cleveland Hopkins International (CLE) 794
  14. Connecticut Bradley International (BDL) 789
  15. Hollywood Burbank (BUR) 772
  16. Kahului (OGG) 771