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  • RANDY PENCH / Bee file, 2012

    The new terminal at Sacramento International Airport is a key reason the airport has received high ratings among other North American facilities.

  • Tony Bizjak

Back-seat Driver: Sacramento International ranks fourth in U.S. for customer service

Published: Friday, Mar. 15, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Sunday, Mar. 17, 2013 - 11:43 am

Sacramento International Airport just got ranked fourth best in customer service out of 43 airports in North America, thanks in good part to its new terminal.

Indianapolis, which has a newer terminal, ranked first, followed by Ottawa and Tampa, Fla., which, we hear, is the gold standard for U.S. airports.

The ratings, released by the Airports Council International, are based on what travelers say about airport ambience, service, security, parking, food, retail, bathrooms and cleanliness.

Sacramento's new Terminal B and still new-ish Terminal A give travelers a sense of Sacramento, with local restaurants, art, and great light, especially in the new terminal.

But, from what a lot of travelers have said, perhaps the best thing about the new airport is something you can't see, the Wi-Fi system.

Sacramento was among the first airports to offer free Wi-Fi throughout the airport. The new terminal boasts charging stations at nearly every seat, including some in the food court.

It's an example of an airport built at the right time for a key technology.

As for the big red rabbit, after one year of hanging around: Some people love it, some don't.

The rabbit's swirling suitcase down in the baggage area has gotten a degree of popularity on its own, becoming a sort of wishing well, where people toss coins for luck.

Airport money issues

That $1 billion Sacramento airport redo loaded the county airport system with a lot of debt, which has to be paid mainly by the airlines and passengers. The recession has left county officials pushing for the airport to increase service to generate more revenue.

That will be one of the main tasks for the new county airports chief, John Wheat, who until recently worked at the Tampa airport.

He arrives in April. We'll talk with him and report on his marching orders.

Asian airports are best

Notably, in the new ACI airport rankings, Asian airports swept first place in all five size categories for best airport internationally.

For small airports, it was Hohhot Baita Airport near Beijing, China.

Chubu Centrair International Airport outside Nagoya, Japan, won in Sacramento's size category.

Two Seoul, South Korea, airports won their size categories – Gimpo International and Incheon International.

Among mega-airports, Singapore Changi Airport was first. That's no surprise to international travelers.

"I just got back from Singapore, and it is just a different approach in Asia," said ACI's Cheryl Marcell. "Their sense of customer service is at a very high level. Singapore airport was gorgeous, clean, orderly, and had lots of staff."

Call The Bee's Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059. Follow him on Twitter @tonybizjak.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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