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Insta-CoGo: Airport Satisfaction Blues

K.C. Summers

Now here's a no-brainer. J.D. Power and Associates just announced the results of its annual North American Airport Satisfaction Study, and customer satisfaction is down significantly. All together now: Duh.

The study divvies up airports into large, medium and small sizes, and measures overall satisfaction according to six factors: accessibility, baggage claim, checkin/baggage check process, terminal facilities, security, and food and retail services. Overall, the study found that satisfaction is 675 on a 1,000-point scale -- down 14 points from 2007. That's considerably lower, the study points out, than satisfaction levels in the hotel, rental car and airline industry (that last is hard to believe).

But here's the local angle: Reagan National ranked fifth among medium-size airports, up from 12th place last year. And Washington Dulles is now 10th in the same segment, up from 13th from 2007.

Not to be negative, but I don't get it.

Do you feel as if your experiences at National and Dulles have improved since last year? Mine sure haven't.

Here are the top performers:

*Large airports: Philadelphia International. Again, I DON'T GET IT. Okay, I love their rocking chairs, but their security system is abysmal. PHL is followed by Las Vegas's McCarran International (LAS) and Orlando International (MCO).

*Medium: Chicago Midway (MDW), followed by LaGuardia International (LGA) and Memphis International (MEM).

*Small: Texas rules, with Dallas Love Field (DAL) leading the pack, followed by Houston Hobby International (HOU) and San Antonio International (SAT).

What are your faves? Do National and Dulles deserve their higher rankings?

By K.C. Summers |  May 20, 2008; 2:13 PM ET  | Category:  Insta-CoGo , K.C. Summers
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My reply is No, Reagan National does not deserve its new ranking of 5 from 12 last year. I'm not sure whether the problem is the airline or the baggage handling system, but the duraation for claiming one's stuff on the carousel is getting ridiculously long. Ditto with McCarran Int'l (LAS). I haven't flown out of Dulles for several years, so I can't give you a rating on their situation.

Posted by: ShepCWillner | May 20, 2008 2:46 PM

I have flown out of and into Dulles a few times in the past several weeks. The security lines move fast. The TSA personnel seem to be on the ball. The last flight was from an international location, and we had no problems with either immigration or customs lines at all. Baggage was delivered promptly ...

We flew United on all of our flights in and out of Dulles ... don't have any complaints there either ...

Perhaps we were just lucky????

Posted by: peapod | May 20, 2008 2:50 PM

I've always had relatively few problems at Dulles, and now that I don't have to wait for the shuttles all the time, I like it better.

However, the issue may be less that Dulles and National got better, but the others got worse. Any time I go through Miami or Atlanta I realize that the DC area airports aren't really that bad.

Posted by: Arlington, VA | May 20, 2008 3:07 PM

How can National be that high when the baggage handling system is so abysmal? The other five factors listed at National are perfectly fine, but I can't get over just how bad the baggage retrieval can get, especially late at night.

Posted by: Arlington | May 20, 2008 3:13 PM

Our friends at Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International point out that our other Washington airport -- BWI --was ranked #4 in the mid-sized category. Sorry about that, BWI.

Posted by: KC Summers | May 20, 2008 4:31 PM

I can't comment on National or Dulles, but Philly #1 ???!!??? The last time I flew in there the baggage took longer than the flight from Toronto ( we were told it was because the plane arrived ahead of schedule, and the handlers were headed to break) But, I will say that there are some good places to eat. I also have never encountered a problem/long lines at security.

Posted by: rja112 | May 20, 2008 8:24 PM

What the heck is "Insta-CoGo"? What is "CoGo"? This is so bizarre and I love the way the blog provides no explanations. Is this the Washington Post or is this some weird "CoGo" business?

Posted by: Ryan | May 20, 2008 9:13 PM

CoGo stands for coming and going, I believe. It confused me for a bit too.

Posted by: vw | May 21, 2008 11:55 AM

Sorry, guys. Forgot to provide that explanation. CoGo is the nickname for our weekly consumer column, Coming & Going, and we do frequent updates on this blog, hence Insta-CoGo. Check the column out if you haven't seen it. It's a good way to keep up to date on consumer news that affects travelers, and it's also a great resource when you run into a travel problem. We go to bat for readers who report problems with airlines, tour operators and other travel providers. These guys will often listen to us when they won't give the time of day to regular customers.

Posted by: KC Summers | May 21, 2008 12:20 PM

Posted by: mb | May 21, 2008 12:25 PM

mb: Yes, I saw a similar article on that earlier and all I could do was shake my head. We are flying American on Sunday and while we have not had any major problems with them, they are certainly not great. It is ridiculous to charge for checked luggage. A second piece, maybe, but for one piece? What's next? Coin-operated restrooms and overhead bins?

I'm just we fall into the grace period for this trip. After this one, I don't think we will be flying for a really long time.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 21, 2008 3:21 PM

So American is now charging for the FIRST checked bag. What's next? Will they charge the airplane lavatory into a pay toilet? At least the legroom in the loo beats that of coach.

Posted by: Sasquatch | May 21, 2008 3:49 PM

I agree, it's possible that the others just got worse and that's why DCA and IAD moved up.

I actually like Tampa. Big airy terminal. Security waits are not bad. The ladnside/airside shuttles a quick and you don't have to wait long for one. Free wifi. Baggage is slow but that happens everywhere these days.

I agree that AA charging $15 to check a bag is ridiculous. It is just going to make boarding and getting off even worse than it is now with all of the extra cabin baggage. Are they going to guarantee better baggage handling service? Isn't it unfair of them to change the rules on everyone who bought a ticket expecting to be able to check at least one bag without extra fees? Is there a class action suit out there over this?

Posted by: Glenn | May 21, 2008 5:29 PM

Glenn, the $15 charge to check a bag with American only applies to tickets bought on or after June 15. So, I suppose if you have already bought tickets for a trip that does not take place until September, you will not have to pay the fee.

Regardless, the whole policy change is incredulous.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 21, 2008 6:40 PM

I can't believe the new charge, for the first bag?!?! Wow

I fly American a lot for work. I'd be an elite member if they used fiscal years, even though I just started flying them 6 months ago. But still. This is ridiculous!

Posted by: Anonymous | May 21, 2008 8:31 PM

It's ridiculous to charge for checking ONE bag. I can't fit all of my liquid/gel/cream toiletries into 3-oz. containers in a quart-size bag, so I HAVE to check my bag, even when it is technically small enough to fit in the overhead. For example: if I'm going on a 5-day trip to a warm location where I will be in the sun, I need at least 10 oz. of sunscreen (1 oz. per application, at least 2 applications per day. I'm fine with using the hotel's shampoo and conditioner, but sunscreen is an item I can't do without, and I'm not willing to take a chance that I won't be able to buy what I need when I arrive wherever I'm going. That one item means I have to check my bag, and a $15 charge means I just paid $30 for 2 bottles of sunscreen instead of the $15 that the product actually cost me. What a rip-off.

The airlines need to join together with consumers and start forcing these oil companies to forego their record profits and force the CEOs to give up their ridiculous salaries and bonuses and join the rest of us in the REAL world.

Posted by: Fairfax | May 22, 2008 8:53 AM

Fairfax, they sell sunscreen everywhere, especially at warm locations with lots of sun. Get a grip.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 22, 2008 11:50 AM

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