Top US Airports: Where Does Your Favorite Airport Rank In Satisfaction?

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This morning J.D. Power published the results of their “Traveler Satisfaction with North American Airports Study” and the findings are…unique. 😉

For starters, it appears that while airport volume continues to dwindle, passenger satisfaction is setting record high levels.

Personally, I don’t put much stock into “ratings” because often the methodology is questionable (at minimum) and personally, I could name 10 small airports that offer rockstar service that has never been seen at a “mega” airport.

Regardless, I often find ratings to be entertaining. I thought it would fun to cover a lighter subject rather than the next airline that is going out of business or how many people are being furloughed due to the pandemic.


The 2020 North America Airport Satisfaction Study measured overall traveler satisfaction with mega, large and medium North American airports by examining six factors (in order of importance): 1) terminal facilities 2) airport arrival/departure 3) baggage claim 4) security check 5) check-in/baggage check and 6) food, beverage and retail on a scale of 1000 points.

  • Mega airports = 33+ million passengers per year
  • Large airports = 10 – 32.9 million passengers per year
  • Medium airports = 4.5 – 9.9 million passengers per year

For context, you may remember that SKYTRAX also ranked airports around the world and there was not one American Airport ranked in the TOP 35 so take this list with a grain of salt.

If you’re interested in viewing the entire list of airports (which is longer than 10), you can do that HERE, but without further ado:

“MEGA” AIRPORTS (average score = 780 points)

1. Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX), 805 points
2. Miami (MIA), 801 points
3. Las Vegas McCarran (LAS), 797 points
4. (tie) Denver (DEN) / New York (JFK), 793 points
6. (tie) Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) / Detroit (DTW), 791 points
8. Orlando (MCO), 789 points
9 (tie) Atlanta (ATL) / Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP), 787 points

“LARGE” AIRPORTS (average score = 787 points)

1. Dallas Love Field (DAL), 844 points
2. (tie) John Wayne/Orange County (SNA) / Tampa (TPA), 837 points
4. Houston Hobby (HOU), 823 points
5. Portland, Oregon (PDX), 814 points
6. Salt Lake City (SLC), 810 points
7. Sacramento (SMF), 809 points
8. Austin (AUS), 804 points
9. Raleigh/Durham (RDU), 799 points
10. Nashville (BNA), 795 points

“MEDIUM” AIRPORTS (average score = 812 points)

1. Indianapolis (IND), 866 points
2. West Palm Beach (PBI), 833 points
3. Fort Myers/Southwest Florida (RSW), 829 points
4. (tie) Albuquerque (ABQ) / Pittsburgh (PIT), 826 points
6. Columbus, Ohio (CMH), 820 points
7. Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky (CVG), 819 points
8. Jacksonville, Florida (JAX), 817 points
9. Milwaukee (MKE), 815 points
10. (tie) Ontario, California (ONT) / San Antonio (SAT), 811 points


Interestingly, you’ll notice that the average satisfaction score is much higher with “medium” airports than with the “mega” or “large” airports but given the criteria (e.g. experience arriving or departing the airport, experience at the security check, etc.), it may be justified.

Have you ever experienced:

  • Las Vegas McCarran (LAS) at night when all the red-eye flights are leaving? Chaos!
  • Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL) security check before a weekend or attempted to pick someone up from airport!? Take a deep breathe…count to 10!
  • Detroit Wayne (DTW) when the train isn’t working and have a gate change from A77 to A3. Who needs a gym membership!? Or perhaps you’ll appreciate MY EXPERIENCE during check in!
Detroit Airport (DTW)

Pro-Tip: If you are not checking any bags and have a mobile boarding pass, head to the ATL International Terminal where you can pass through security in less than 2 minutes on any day of the week. Guaranteed! 🤫


It’s worth noting that this study was conducted between August 2019 and July 2020. In other words, more than half of this survey was during the pandemic. I trust that had some affect on the results.

Imagine if parking at Atlanta Hartsfield (ATL) always looked like this…

Additionally, it’s worth noting that one of the primary ways that “ratings companies” makes money is by providing consulting services. In other words, airports pay companies to rate them. Although companies will deny the payment influences any decisions, you can see where there may be some conflict of interest…but everybody gotta have a hustle so it is what it is.

Regardless, consumers love airport “ratings,” as the ratings are worn as a badge of honor, and travel brands are proud to promote them in their marketing strategies.

Regarding specific US airports, I’m interested in Indianapolis. I don’t believe I’ve departed from or transited through Indianapolis so I may add that to my list of things to do because they are clearly doing something well.

Are you surprised by the rankings? Is there an airport that you think should be ranked higher or lower?

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