The low ranking for LAX comes amid several major projects underway, in the works or recently completed, including construction of a $1.6-billion terminal that began earlier this year, the addition of high-end stores and eateries, and an automated people mover that will take travelers to and from a centralized car rental location.
LAX was not the only big-city airport whose ranking suffered from big projects, according to Costa Mesa-based J.D. Power, which which based its 12th traveler satisfaction study on responses from 34,695 North American passengers. The airports were categorized by size: mega, large and medium.
"Despite the most creative efforts to address traveler frustration, major city airports that are in the thick of massive construction efforts — notably Newark Liberty, LaGuardia, Los Angeles International and Chicago O'Hare — are still fighting the headwinds of traveler disruption and access challenges that are handicapping their overall satisfaction scores," according to J.D. Power. Newark Liberty is in New Jersey, LaGuardia in Queens, N.Y.
Michael Taylor, who heads the firm's Travel Practice, added: "The trifecta of a steadily improving economy, record passenger volume and billion-dollar renovation projects unfolding in airports across the country has created a challenging environment for customer satisfaction. The fact that many airports are overcoming those challenges is incredibly instructive for the industry as it remodels and improves airport infrastructure."
Overall passenger satisfaction with U.S. airports reached an all-time high in the study, as technology innovation and personal attention are helping ease the stress of traveling.
"Capacity has become a huge challenge for North American airports, with many reporting 100% of available parking spots being filled and large airports, such as Orlando International, setting passenger volume records each month for more than three years straight," Taylor said. "Despite these difficulties, airports are responding with new technology and old-fashioned personal skills to win over harried travelers. These range from smartphone apps that tell travelers where to find a parking spot to therapy dogs — and in one case, a therapy pig — mingling with travelers to relieve stress and improve the overall airport experience."
Florida's Orlando International Airport ranked the highest in satisfaction among mega airports, with a score of 778, while Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport ranked second at 767. Tied for third were McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, each with 765. LAX's score was 712.
John Wayne Airport's score of 796 was the best among large airports, beating Florida's Tampa International Airport at 795 and Dallas Love Field at 790. San Diego International Airport came in eighth place with a score of 757.