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Survey: LaGuardia ranks last in customer satisfaction

A view of travelers sitting in LaGuardia Airport.

A view of travelers sitting in LaGuardia Airport. Credit: Todd Maisel

Two of the region's three main airports again ranked among the worst nationwide in customer satisfaction, but Kennedy Airport for the first time ranked above average in its category, according to a new survey released Wednesday by J.D. Power.

LaGuardia Airport ranked dead last in the survey among 27 “large” airports nationwide — which shuttle ten million to 32.9 million passengers per year — scoring 662 out of 1,000 possible points in overall customer satisfaction. The score was the lowest of all North American airports in any category.

Newark Liberty International Airport finished last among 19 “mega” airports that move more than 33 million passengers annually with a score of 695.

But the news was not all negative for tristate airport passengers. Kennedy Airport continued its steady rise in the survey, peaking at 12th in the “mega’ category with a score of 758. The average ranking in the category was 756.

Michael Taylor, travel practice lead at J.D. Power, said upgrades to JFK’s aging terminals, food and beverage offerings and its rail and road access have started to pay off with customers.

“It’s not easy to make changes with an airport of this size,” Taylor said. “But they are starting to see signs of improvement.”

The Port Authority, which runs LaGuardia, JFK and Newark, did not respond to a request for comment.

The marketing company's 14th annual North America Airport Satisfaction Study measures traveler satisfaction among six key factors, including terminal facilities, airport accessibility, baggage claim, security check, check-in/baggage check and food, beverage and retail.

The study, which measured the satisfaction of more than 32,000 North American travelers who traveled through at least one domestic airport, was conducted between October 2018 and September 2019. The survey does not cover smaller local airports such as Long Island MacArthur in Ronkonkoma or Republic in East Farmingdale.

Air passenger satisfaction at all major North American airports was stagnant from 2018, ticking up just one point to 762.

The modest performance is attributable to poor scores for facility access, with a significant number of travelers citing major construction-related delays getting in and out of their respective airport, the survey found. Construction projects, Taylor said, cause passenger delays and confusion, leading to less money spent on food, beverage and retail offerings.

The common thread among the highest performing airports, including Detroit Metropolitan, Portland International and Indianapolis International, is that they are relatively new terminals that can handle increased passenger volume, incorporate local food and beverage options and offer easy transportation access, the survey found.

And despite record-high passenger volumes nationwide, airports are performing better at security check-in lines — typically a drag on satisfaction scores — in part because of biometric screening technologies that move passengers through security faster, JD Power found.

Much of the criticism directed to LaGuardia centers on its $8 billion renovation which has snared traffic, caused major passenger confusion and limited parking.

The project calls for the construction of a Central Terminal Building with a “world-class” main entrance, a new Delta Air Lines terminal and an AirTrain to connect the airport to the Long Island Rail Road and subway system.

“At this point LaGuardia is essentially more a construction zone than an airport,” Taylor said. “And there’s just no way to make this into a good experience.”

At Newark, state officials are overhauling the oldest terminal, building a new million-square-foot terminal and a 3,000-car parking garage.

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