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Best airports? Passenger survey gives the nod to Indianapolis, Milwaukee and other airports

March 12, 2022
5 min read
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What’s the best way to rank airports? That's a trick question. There are as many ways to measure airports as there are passengers, of course.

Depending on the day I might rank them according to where I can find a good vegetarian meal, where I know I’ll always be able to see great art or where the restrooms are always spotless.

You might rank airport by best cocktail bars, nicest lounges or the ability to squeeze in some plane spotting. Categories in the TPG Awards include rankings such as Best Loyalty Program and Best Airline Elite Status.

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For its annual Airport Service Quality (ASQ) awards, Airports Council International (ACI) World collects passenger interviews conducted in participating airports around the world. For 2021, the awards are based on customer experience across 34 different performance indicators, such as access, check-in, security, food and beverage, and cleanliness of the airport’s overall facilities.

“After a second year of the pandemic, this year’s Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Award winners are especially reflective of customer experience leadership during the most challenging time in our sector’s history,” ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira said. “We are exceedingly proud of their stellar leadership in delivering the very best customer experience.

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(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

In 2021, participating airports submitted over 370,000 surveys. When the tallying was completed, 110 awards were won by 87 individual airports around the world in categories that include Best Airports by Size (measured in passengers per year) and Region, as well as Best Hygiene Measures by Region.

Indianapolis makes the list, again

In North America, Indianapolis International Airport (IND) won an Airport Service Quality Award in its category (5 to 15 million passengers per year) for the tenth year in a row, making it the only airport in the United States to win the honor for a straight decade.

“It’s the love and relentless dedication that our staff has put into this place that has made us the top airport in North America again and again – more times than any other airport in the country,” said Indianapolis Airport Authority Executive Director Mario Rodriguez. “This is a tremendous honor, and we are incredibly proud of all the people who make this airport an example that all others can aspire to.”

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) and General Mitchell International Airport (MKE) won in this category as well.

Related: TPG readers share their favorite airport restaurants

Milwaukee gets an ASQ Award for the first time

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

For MKE, It’s the first time the airport has won one of these awards.

“For the first time in MKE history, it’s an honor to see Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport, including our staff and our partners, receive this well-deserved recognition for providing an outstanding level of service to our passengers,” said Airport Director Brian Dranzik. “These awards are determined through direct passenger feedback, so it’s gratifying that they are having a world-class experience when they choose MKE.”

Among large airports with over 40 million passenger year, Hartsfield-Jackson International Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) received 2021 Airport Service Quality Awards.

Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport (MSP) and Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) won in the 25-40 million passengers per year category. Tampa International Airport (TPA) was the sole winner in the 15-25 million passenger per year category and Maine’s Portland International Jetport (PWM) was the sole winner in the 2-5 million passengers per year category.

Related: Beloved teddy bear left at Milwaukee Airport back home where it belongs

Best hygiene is a new category thanks to COVID-19

An aerial view of Tampa International Airport (TPA). (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to have a major impact on passenger traffic, and evolving health measures have created a new set of expectations that affect how passengers view the airport experience. For that reason, ACI World added new health and hygiene related questions to its survey in 2020.

For 2021, eight North American airports received awards in a new category, Best Hygiene Measures by Region.

  • Corpus Christi International Airport (CRP)
  • Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR)
  • Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP)
  • Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY)
  • San Antonino International Airport (SAT)
  • Tampa International Airport (TPA)
  • Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ)
  • Victoria International Airport (YYJ)

The new hygiene category complements ACI’s Airport Health Accreditation program, a tool developed during the COVID pandemic to help airports align their health measures with global standards. There are currently more than 300 airports participating in this program.

Related: The new and revamped US airports coming in 2022 and beyond

Bottom line

In response to the pandemic, ACI World has made some adaptions in the awards program. The organization reduced the number of airport participants in each category from five to three and did not make awards in several categories this year, including Most Improved, Best Airport Customer Service, and Best Airport Environment and Ambiance.

For 2021, a recognition that is separate from the Awards program was made to recognize airports that demonstrate “significant efforts in gathering passenger feedback to better understand their customers during the pandemic.” Indianapolis International Airport (IND) received that award, the Voice of the Customer Honor.

Featured image by (Image courtesy of the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
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  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases