Are US Airports Lagging Behind?



As a frequent traveler, I consistently observe that many large US airports lag behind their counterparts elsewhere around the world, especially in Asia where for years passengers between flights have caught the latest Hollywood blockbuster while waiting to board. Further, a recent J.D. Power and Associates survey indicates US airports trailing hotels and car rental companies in general satisfaction. Travelers with long layovers in Asian airports never had it so good, with greater restaurant choices, expanded retail areas and now, in some cases, movie theaters to help while away the hours between flights. All this diversionary activity, which may also include hotel spas, chic pubs and specialty airline clubs, is producing an upward trend on satisfaction surveys while helping re-imagine airline travel for millions of tourists and business passengers. My recent study on airport amenities and travel experience takes a wide-angle view of the evolving amenities trend, looking not only at U.S. airports but also those in trendsetting Asia where last year I surveyed 271 passengers at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia. Findings of this study conclude that not only are passengers reporting greater satisfaction because of the expanded amenities, but their spending has increased, too. Airports can benefit from displaying “national identity” in their design and décor by greeting guests in a traditional way and adding local colors, art and cuisine to the physical environment to enhance passengers’ travel experiences. While most terminals worldwide exhibit similar features, passengers indicate greater approval of those that reflect the local culture.

Dr. Faizan Ali is an assistant professor in the College of Hospitality and Technology Leadership at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. Ali’s research interests are in the areas of customer experience, service performance and quality, customer satisfaction and behavior. He has authored more than 60 research articles published in academic journals and has presented at numerous international conferences.

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