Passenger satisfaction with O’Hare International Airport and Midway Airport is declining as air travelers return to Chicago, a new study shows.
Both Chicago airports ranked below average in customer satisfaction among airports of similar size, according to JD Power’s 2022 North American Airport Satisfaction Study, released Wednesday. Among the nation’s largest airports, only Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey ranked lower than O’Hare.
The move to second from last marked an improvement for O’Hare from the 2021 study, when it ranked last among mega-airports in the nation. Still, while O’Hare no longer leaves passengers less satisfied, the airport’s overall satisfaction score fell this year.
The drop in scores at the two Chicago airports reflects a national trend, according to JD Power. Satisfaction with airports across the country declined as travelers encountered crowded terminals, fewer flight options, rising prices Y labor shortage at airports and airlinesfound the study.
The decline in satisfaction is expected to continue for months to come, said Michael Taylor, travel intelligence leader at JD Power. After that, the effects of inflation on travel demand and overcrowding at airports remain to be seen, he said.
“There are more people at these airports,” he said. “And the higher the volume of passengers, the lower the satisfaction.”
More than 6.6 million passengers flew through O’Hare in July, an 11% increase from July 2021, according to data from the Chicago Department of Aviation. At Midway, passenger volume rose nearly 18% in July to 2.1 million.
O’Hare may also be finding a common trend among airports with major construction projects planned, Taylor said. An $8.5 billion rehabilitation and expansion of O’Hare is underwayincluding construction of a new Global Terminal and two satellite concourses, which have not yet started, and an ongoing expansion of the airport’s Terminal 5.
Often, when airports approach major construction projects, authorities refuse to invest in improvements, Taylor said.
“You’re not going to put in a new tile floor, you’re not going to refinish the bathroom, because they’re all going to be gone in a few years,” he said.
Kevin Bargnes, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Aviation, highlighted work as part of the expansion that has already been completed, such as a new car rental center, renovated pedestrian tunnels between the CTA Blue Line station and the terminals, and a new parking lot near the main terminals. The airport train “people” is back in serviceafter years of construction and delays.
But there is more work on the way.
“Aspects of the upcoming construction work may cause short-term disruptions to travelers, and O’Hare staff will do their best to communicate these inconveniences to passengers in advance,” Bargnes said in an email. “But in the long run, O’Hare 21 will enable a passenger experience worthy of one of the best airports in the world.”
Although largely outside the control of airport authorities, airline scheduling could also be a factor in passenger dissatisfaction, Taylor said. Carriers are flying fewer and more fully booked, which can mean a rush of people arriving at the airport around the same time.
For those arriving at the airport, some dealers have faced hiring challenges, Bargnes said. The department is working to help businesses prepare for the holiday season, she said, and new restaurants and retail stores will open in Midway through next year. New concessions are also planned for O’Hare.
Bargnes also touted the high rankings of O’Hare and Midway in a separate Global Traveler magazine survey.
JD Power’s annual study was based on surveys of more than 26,500 U.S. or Canadian passengers between August 2021 and July 2022. It examined terminal facilities, airport arrivals and departures, baggage claim , security screening, check-in and baggage screening, and food, beverage and retail offerings.
Among the nation’s largest “mega” airports, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport ranked first. Tampa International Airport ranked first in the large airport category, which also included Midway. Indianapolis International Airport ranked first in the group of medium-sized airports.