J.D. Power ranks Detroit, Tampa, Indy No. 1 for airport satisfaction

Monday, October 2, 2023
A view inside Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW). (DTW Facebook photo)

Despite record-high traveler volumes and countless flight delays and cancellations, a study by J.D. Power shows overall passenger satisfaction improved this year with Detroit, Tampa and Indianapolis leading the way.

According to J.D. Power’s 2023 North American Airport Satisfaction Study, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport ranked highest in passenger satisfaction among mega airports while Minneapolis-Saint Paul and Las Vegas’ Harry Reid International Airports were close behind.

Tampa International Airport ranked highest among large airports for a second consecutive year. Orange County, California’s John Wayne Airport and Salt Lake City International ranked second and third respectively.

Among medium-sized airports, Indianapolis International Airport came out on top, closely followed by Southwest Florida International Airport and San Bernardino, California’s Ontario International Airport.

The study examined six factors – TSA security check; terminal facilities; airport arrival/departure; baggage claim; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and retail.

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)

Good news for TSA – customers rated DTW high for short wait times at the airport’s security checkpoints as well as the courtesy of TSA employees.

“TSA is committed to staying ahead of emerging threats to provide a safe and efficient security screening experience for the traveling public through innovative technology solutions and the hard work of our highly skilled workforce,” said Michigan TSA Federal Security Director (FSD) Reggie Stephens. “Our workforce takes pride in their public service, and they’ve consistently demonstrated a positive attitude which has contributed greatly to our shared success at DTW.”

Wayne County Airport Authority CEO Chad Newton credited DTW’s strong relationship with its federal partners, specifically TSA and Customs and Border Protection, for the high security check score.

Michigan TSA Stakeholder Manager Patricia Fantazian said TSA, the Wayne County Airport Authority and their partners are consistently focused on improving the DTW campus.

“In the past year, the airport has expanded the use of biometric/facial recognition technology to enhance the overall customer experience,” said Fantazian.

DTW scored 800 points on a 1,000-point scale in the mega airport category. That’s nine points higher than in 2022 and 14 points higher than 2019 when DTW last received the honor.

“This honor is a reflection of the strong partnership with Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, and we look forward to continued collaboration as we deliver a top-tier security experience,” Stephens noted.

Tampa International Airport (TPA)

TSA officers commemorate the 22nd anniversary of 9/11 at Tampa International Airport (TPA). (TPA Facebook photo)
TSA officers commemorate the 22nd anniversary of 9/11 at Tampa International Airport (TPA). (TPA Facebook photo)

Florida TSA FSD Kirk Skinner said he’s “absolutely ecstatic” that TPA earned top honors for large airports and is thrilled to know his team continues to not only deliver world-class security, but does so as a key partner, contributing to the reputation and success of Tampa International.

“Here at TPA, customer service is a core function of our operation and is a part of every aspect of our interactions with both passengers and stakeholders,” said Skinner. “Performance success is reliant on professionally and respectfully engaging with passengers. Every training event is built on a foundation of customer service expectations.”

Skinner calls TSA officers at TPA some of the best in the country.

“The satisfaction with our screening services calms the checkpoint environment, calming the operation and reducing stress for passengers and officers,” he said. “Creating a customer service positive culture requires very intentional efforts designed to show the positive relationship between customer service and security.”

Skinner said his team makes every effort to teach organizational culture and demonstrate the fundamental relationship between operational success and customer service. He emphasized the importance of partnerships at TPA.

“Partnerships are the grease that makes everything work together seamlessly and without undue frustration,” he said. “A mutual understanding of each other’s missions and goals and appreciation for our mutual challenges takes a partnership and turns it into a TEAM. That’s why Tampa International Airport received this award and will most likely receive it for a third time next year.”

Passengers go through one of the TSA checkpoints at Indianapolis International Airport (IND). (IND Facebook photo)
Passengers go through one of the TSA checkpoints at Indianapolis International Airport (IND). (IND Facebook photo)

Indianapolis International Airport (IND)

Indiana FSD Aaron Batt called it an honor to be selected for the sixth time as J.D. Power’s top medium-sized airport.

“Our employees take pride in providing the best security in the most respectful manner,” said Batt. “We understand the difference a smile, warm greeting or even phrasing a request into a question can make in the overall passenger experience. Doing that every time for every passenger is difficult, and while we don’t always do it perfectly, we try because we know we represent our community.”

Batt admits wait times have slightly climbed over the last year at IND, and he said adjusting to those increased waits has been his team’s greatest obstacle.

“Wait times for our TSA PreCheck® travelers has increased with the installation of new computed tomography equipment on those lanes,” Batt said. “Our officers work even harder as a result, making sure passenger engagement is polite and respectful even when they understand those wait times are outside their control. They often try to explain how the equipment will allow increased capability, both security and passenger experience, in the future with automation.”

TSA has a close partnership with the Indianapolis Airport Authority and airlines, which Batt said is a collective effort to further enhance the passenger experience.

“This year, the airlines opened their ticket counters earlier, and the airport has provided additional staff to answer questions for travelers waiting in security lines and even providing them with refreshments post-security,” described Batt. “The airport even purchased 10 additional dual property viewing stations so we can add a second operator to the X-ray systems. They are in the process of donating this purchase to TSA, which was approximately $200,000.”

In the annual J.D. Power study, mega airports are defined as those with 33 million or more passengers per year; large airports with 10 to 32.9 million passengers per year; and medium airports with 4.5 to 9.9 million passengers per year.

Now in its 18th year, the study is based on over 27,000 completed surveys from U.S. or Canadian residents who traveled through at least one U.S. or Canadian airport and covers both departure and arrival experiences (including connecting airports) during the past 30 days. Travelers evaluated either a departing or arriving airport from their round-trip experience.

Here is more information on the North America Airport Satisfaction Study.

By Don Wagner, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs