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J.D. Power: Customer satisfaction bottoms out at NYC metro airports

LaGuardia ranked dead last among 24 "large" airports nationwide, scoring a 678 out of 1,000.

An undated photo shows a plane near LaGuardia

An undated photo shows a plane near LaGuardia Airport. Photo Credit: Uli Seit

New York and New Jersey's three main airports ranked among the lowest nationwide in customer satisfaction, according to a new survey released Wednesday by J.D. Power.

LaGuardia Airport ranked dead last in the survey among 24 "large" airports nationwide — which move between 10 million and 32.4 million passengers annually — scoring 678 out of 1,000 points in overall customer satisfaction.

Newark Liberty International Airport finished last among 19 "mega" airports handling more than 32.5 million passengers annually with a score of 701. Kennedy Airport performed marginally better in the category, ranking 14th with a score of 752.

Michael Taylor, travel practice lead at J.D. Power who organized the survey research, said commuters generally find New York area airports to be outdated, difficult to access and with inadequate amenities, such as restaurants and retail stores.

"It will take a lot of time and a lot of money to turn around these airports and make them the types of facilities that they should have been 20 years ago," Taylor said.

The Port Authority, which runs LaGuardia, JFK and Newark, said that together with the private sector it had committed roughly $28 million to modernize the three airports.

“This includes the construction of entirely new terminals, upgraded runways/taxiways and improved roadways as part of the complete redevelopment of LaGuardia Airport, the Terminal One project at Newark Liberty Airport, and advancement of the JFK Vision Plan," the Port Authority said in a statement.  

"Additionally, we have launched partnerships with various airport stakeholders to introduce new technologies and concessions, facility enhancements, including restroom upgrades, new retail opportunities and other amenities — all part of our effort to significantly enhance the customer experience for travelers while we are in the process of modernizing our airports.”

The 13th annual North America Airport Satisfaction Study measures traveler satisfaction among key factors, including terminal facilities, airport accessibility, security check, baggage claim, check-in/baggage check and food, beverage and retail.

The survey, conducted between September 2017 and September 2018, is based on the responses of more than 40,000 North American travelers who visited at least one domestic airport. 

The survey does not cover smaller local airports such as Long Island MacArthur in Ronkonkoma or Republic in East Farmingdale.

While New York and New Jersey airports fared poorly in the survey, air passenger satisfaction at larger airports across the country  ticked up 12 points, compared  with the 2017 report, reaching an all-time high of 761, J.D. Power found. 

Despite record-high passenger volumes nationwide and billion-dollar construction projects in major hubs, such as Boston, Los Angeles and Chicago, passengers said airports were performing better at security check-in lines and providing a better selection of food and commercial activities. 

The highest grades went to airports in Las Vegas, Orlando, Dallas, Buffalo, Indianapolis and Orange County, Califonia, the survey found.

LaGuardia, which is undergoing an $8 billion renovation, had the lowest score among airports of any size, with poor rankings for accessibility and terminal facilities, Taylor said. The upgrades will include a new Delta Air Lines terminal and an AirTrain to connect the airport to the Long Island Rail Road and subway system to move passengers from midtown Manhattan.

"At this point LaGuardia is more of a construction site than an airport," Taylor said.

Visitors flying into LaGuardia on Wednesday were underwhelmed by what they described as a confusing, dimly lit airport. 

“It’s dark and dank,” said Holly Kouns, in town from Dallas to celebrate her 30th birthday. “Something like raising the short ceilings could mean a lot.”

Kouns’ trip was far from over. She was waiting for public transportation to get to Williamsburg, Brooklyn — a trip that would take more than an hour by bus and subway. 

Jason Rios, 35, a school curriculum designer from the Upper East Side, said LaGuardia needs better dining options.

“The best places to eat are before security checkpoints,” he said, “unless you’re in the mood for a pretzel.”

A volunteer information specialist at LaGuardia, Sunday Colom, concedes the airport is in serious need of a modernization but is hopeful the renovations will transform its look and reputation. 

“With all the construction happening, it can be confusing, and it does put people out of the way a little bit,” Colom said. “But when the new airport opens, it’s going to be magnificent. It’ll look right out of 'The Jetsons'.”

JFK is undergoing an upgrade of its terminals, rail and road access.  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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