Straighten Up and Fly Right

J.D. Power Ranks Houston's Airports Among the Nation's Worst

Travelers' overall satisfaction with airports is improving, but not in the Bayou City.

By Katharine Shilcutt December 19, 2016

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Passengers wait to check their bags at a United kiosk in IAH.

Houston's airports have been hard at work on expansions and improvements over the last few years, a fact that doesn't seem to reconcile with the latest J.D. Power North America Airport Satisfaction Study, released last Thursday. Within, both Bush Intercontinental (IAH) and Houston Hobby (HOU) ranked among the lowest in their classes, with both coming in well below the average rankings for large and medium airports respectively. This is in spite of year-over-year improvements in satisfaction overall at our nation's airports, according to the study.

At IAH, which remains United Airlines' largest hub, serving over 40 million passengers last year alone, nearly $4 billion has been poured into various improvement projects, including the creation of a new Terminal C North concourse with 20 new dining and retail options and the construction of the new $1.5 billion Mickey Leland International Terminal to replace the old Terminal D. Despite ongoing efforts, J.D. Power's survey ranked IAH as the 7th worst large airport in the nation with an overall satisfaction score of 709 out of a possible 1000. Portland International Airport led the rankings with 786 points and New York's LaGuardia brought up the rear with 649.

Meanwhile at Hobby, which recently added an international terminal amidst a $250 million renovation project, customer satisfaction ratings netted a total of 737 points, making it the 7th worst medium airport among its peers. Indianapolis International Airport led the pack with 794 points while Cleveland Hopkins Airport finished last with 704. Interestingly, Hobby was one of only three U.S. airports to garner a four-star rating from global ratings organization Skytrax earlier this year, making the J.D. Power rankings all the more confusing.

Now in its 11th year, the study measures overall traveler satisfaction examining six factors (in order of importance): terminal facilities; airport accessibility; security check; baggage claim; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and retail options. The study collected 38,931 responses from North American passengers who traveled through at least one domestic or international airport with both departure and arrival experiences (excluding connecting airports) during the period between January through October 2016.

For its part, Wanderlust has always had positive experiences coming and going from both of Houston's airports. Not only are the security lines frequently shorter than at many other airports we've traveled through (and the customs area at Hobby has to be the fastest we've ever experienced), our food options at both IAH and Hobby are getting better by the day. If that makes Houston's airports the 7th worst in their categories, we'll take it.

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