WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif., Dec. 16 (UPI) -- Travelers who passed through U.S. airports in 2015 may be the most satisfied they've ever been, according to new aviation market research published Wednesday by J.D. Power and Associates.
In its North America Airport Satisfaction Study for 2015, the research firm said surveys conducted at dozens of U.S. airports indicate a "major cultural shift" in the industry that seems to be focused more than ever on improving travelers' experiences.
"Most airports have really made a tremendous shift over the past six years and are now focused on managing the end-to-end experience for their travelers," J.D. Power's travel and hospitality practice analyst Rick Garlick said. "It's no longer just about getting travelers from Point A to Point B as efficiently as possible; it's about making the airport experience enjoyable."
The firm queried more than 21,000 North American travelers for the satisfaction survey and ranked large- and medium-size airports in the United States based on most of the responses.
Researchers said the survey, conducted between July and October, focused on six factors -- terminal facilities, airport accessibility, security, baggage claim, check-in/baggage check, and retail amenities. And the report indicates travelers are happier than ever with their experiences in those elements.
"Travelers now are substantially more satisfied with retail experiences in their airport," J.D. Power Vice President of Utility & Infrastructure Practice Jeff Conklin said. "Airports that have responded to this demand by offering a variety of food, beverage, merchandise and other attractive services and amenities are realizing significant gains in overall customer satisfaction."
Among large U.S. airports, Portland International Airport was rated the highest with an overall score of 791 out of 1,000. Tampa International was second (776) and McCarran International in Las Vegas (759) third. Orlando and Salt Lake City rounded out the top five.
Among medium-size airports, Dallas Love Field and Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers tied for the No. 1 spot -- each with a score of 792. Indianapolis (789), Raleigh-Durham, N.C., (789) tied for third and Jacksonville, Fla., (787) was fifth.
The worst-rated medium-size airport was Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, which received a score of 698. The lowest-rated large airport was New Jersey's Newark-Liberty International Airport, with a score of 646.
Chicago's O'Hare and Los Angeles' LAX -- the third- and second-busiest airports in the United States -- also scored in the bottom five with 680 and 670, respectively.
The overall satisfaction score average at all airports was 725, the survey said -- an improvement over 2010 (690), the last time the study was conducted. The average was 719 at large airports and 752 at medium airports.
J.D. Power and Associates also noted the following observations from the satisfaction survey:
-- Check-in and security screening make or break airport satisfaction.
-- Younger travelers are more satisfied and typically spend more money at airports.
-- Gate cleanliness was a critical factor in overall terminal satisfaction.
-- Travelers who use ride-share to get to the airport are more satisfied than those who are driven by a friend, relative or colleague.
-- Dissatisfied travelers are more vocal than satisfied travelers.