Travelers are actually starting to hate US airports a little bit less

The worst.
The worst.
Image: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton
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It should come as no surprise that US airports aren’t among the most loved in the world. Yet a poll of more than 36,000 travelers by J.D. Power and Associates resulted in the highest marks for North American airports—almost all of them in the US—in more than a decade. Even Newark Liberty International Airport improved, if slightly.

Not all airports boast a therapy pig in a tutu like San Francisco, so what gives?

Better dining and beverage outlets such as tapas restaurants and local beers, as well as more shopping options and faster check-ins and security procedures are to thank for the improvement in sentiment, says Michael Taylor, an airport analyst and consultant at J.D. Power.

“When you get to the airport, you don’t have to interact with a person, for the most part,” he says.

Isn’t that the dream?

The love may not last too long. Some of the busiest airports in the US are undergoing long overdue multi-billion overhauls, so construction side-effects like traffic can make the experience less pleasant. All those building works are happening just as more passengers (pdf) are expected to flood already strained airports.

“We’re going to go through massive short-term pain,” says Taylor.

New York’s LaGuardia, a piece of aged infrastructure that’s proved a rare tract of political common ground, fell to the bottom of the rankings for large US airports in J.D. Power’s rankings. The airport is undergoing a more than $4 billion overhaul. The rebuilding has already snarled traffic and forced passengers to drag their suitcases along the busy Grand Central Parkway.

“New York is an exception to a lot of things,” Taylor said.