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North America's best airports are Miami and New Orleans, says J.D. Power

Sept. 22, 2021
5 min read
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Editor's Note

/strong> This post has been corrected to show all of the airports rated in the J.D. Power Study. One airport was inadvertently excluded from the list in an earlier draft.

Would you argue for Miami International as the best airport in North America? No? Then, how about New Orleans?

Road warriors who go to bat in defense of their favorite airport — or to bash their least favorite — will now have new fodder for their arguments.

That's thanks to the latest from marketing research firm J.D. Power, which released its 2021 North American Airport Satisfaction Study on Wednesday. Miami and New Orleans each topped their respective categories for the best airports in U.S. and Canada.

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Miami took the top spot in J.D. Power’s “Mega” airports category, finishing with a score of 828 on a 1,000-point scale. That was enough to best runner-up New York-JFK (817 points) and third-place finisher Minneapolis-St. Paul (815). Phoenix, the 2020 winner, dropped to fifth place with 808 points.

Buoyed by a brand-new terminal that opened in late 2019, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International finished No. 1 in the survey’s “Large” airports category with 844 points. New Orleans' score was just enough to squeak past No. 2 Tampa (843 points) and Raleigh-Durham (841). The 2020 winner for the category — Dallas Love Field — dropped to fourth.

At the other end of the spectrum, Philadelphia recorded the worst overall score – its 758 points ranked it last out of the 20 airports in the “Large” category. Chicago O’Hare finished last out of the 20 airports in the “Mega” category with 772 points.

Let the good times roll: With a jazzy fanfare, New Orleans’ new airport terminal is open for business

A look inside the new terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport on Oct. 24, 2019. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

J.D. Power typically rates airports in three categories, but it did not rank airports in the “Medium” category for 2021 because of “reduced passenger volumes” during the pandemic.

Overall, passenger satisfaction scores rose to a record high in J.D. Power’s 2021 survey, with airports averaging a score of 802 points. But that comes with something of an asterisk. The report, which surveyed U.S. and Canadian flyers who traveled between July 2020 and July 2021, found scores jumped during the first half of that window, “when passenger volumes were still just a fraction of the historical norm.”

Since January, however, satisfaction scores “steadily declined” as air travel rebounded and passenger volumes picked up.

“Ultimately, the data conveys changing expectations among travelers,” Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power, said in a statement accompanying the 2021 survey results. “Early in the pandemic, passengers were satisfied with any shop or restaurant being open, but they now expect full service at the airport.”

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J.D. Power’s survey looked at satisfaction scores evaluating the two categories of airports across six factors. They were, in order of importance to the survey: terminal facilities; airport arrival/departure; baggage claim; security check; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and retail.

The full methodology for the survey can be found at J.D. Power’s website. The 2021 results are based on responses from 13,225 U.S. and Canadian travelers surveyed within 30 days of their travel during a window that began in August 2020 and ended in July 2021.

The full list of airport ratings is below, broken out by J.D. Power’s categories of Mega and Large.

Mega airports

1. Miami (MIA), 828 points.

2. New York-JFK, 817 points.

3. Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP), 815 points.

4. Orlando (MCO), 812 points.

5. Phoenix (PHX), 808 points.

6. Las Vegas (LAS), 806 points.

7. Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), 805 points.

8. Houston Intercontinental (IAH), 801 points.

9 (tie). Detroit (DTW), 798 points.

9 (tie). Atlanta (ATL), 798 points

Mega airports average: 798 points.

11 (tie). Charlotte (CLT), 796 points.

11 (tie). San Francisco (SFO), 796 points.

13 (tie). Denver (DEN), 793 points.

13 (tie). Fort Lauderdale (FLL), 793 points.

15 (tie). Los Angeles (LAX), 792 points.

15 (tie). Newark Liberty (EWR), 792 points.

17. Seattle (SEA), 789 points.

18. Boston (BOS), 784 points.

19. Toronto Pearson (YYZ), 780 points.

20. Chicago O’Hare (ORD), 772 points.

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Large airports

1. New Orleans (MSY), 844 points.

2. Tampa (TPA), 843 points.

3. Raleigh-Durham (RDU), 841 points.

4. Dallas Love (DAL), 829 points.

5. Salt Lake City (SLC), 826 points.

6. Nashville (BNA), 820 points.

7. Austin (AUS), 819 points.

8. San Diego (SAN), 814 points.

9. San Antonio (SAT), 813 points.

Large airport average: 805 points.

10. Washington National (DCA), 804 points.

11. Portland, Oregon (PDX), 803 points.

12 (tie). Sacramento (SMF), 802 points.

12 (tie). Washington Dulles (IAD), 802 points.

14. St. Louis (STL), 801 points.

15 (tie). Chicago Midway (MDW), 800 points.

15 (tie). Kansas City (MCI), 800 points.

17. Houston Hobby (HOU), 794 points.

18. Baltimore/Washington (BWI), 785 points.

19. New York LaGuardia (LGA), 781 points.

20. Philadelphia (PHL), 758 points.

Editor's note: This post has been corrected to show all of the airports rated in the J.D. Power Study. One airport was inadvertently excluded from the list in an earlier draft.

Featured image by Getty Images/iStockphoto
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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