Sacramento International Airport won the highest customer satisfaction ratings among American airports for 2017, according to a national survey released Thursday. And the red rabbit may have a bit to do with it.
After several years in the middle of the pack, Sacramento’s airport scored the most positive reviews in the annual poll taken by J.D. Power, a travel consultancy. The North America Airport Satisfaction Study asked 35,000 fliers to rank airports on terminal facilities, accessibility, security check, baggage claim, check-in and shopping and food.
Officially, Sacramento was the highest ranking mid-size airport in the country, just nudging out Indianapolis. But Sacramento’s rating, 810 out of a possible 1,000, also was higher than the top airports in the other two categories, the mega airport category, which was led by Orlando International, and the large airport category, which was topped by John Wayne Airport in Orange County.
Fliers typically rank midsize airports higher than big airports because they are easier to navigate with shorter walking distances, have smaller crowds and are less confusing to navigate.
As airports get busier, “one thing travelers look for is a feeling of serenity, and Sacramento (has) that serene feeling,” J.D. Power spokesman Mike Taylor said.
Art pieces are part of that, he said. “The giant rabbit and tree from the roof and whimsical luggage in baggage claim. It lends a fun air to the airport. That is a very different feel from, say, O’Hare.”
Sacramento underwent a $1 billion terminal and concourse modernization effort in 2011, replacing outdated and crowded former Terminal B.
The new ratings are a major improvement for Sacramento, which got only an above average rating last year. Passengers thought the airport provided a better experience in all categories this year, particularly security checkpoints and baggage handling.
Airport director John Wheat applauded his staff, airlines and federal officials with the Transportation Security Administration. “They’ve done a wonderful job improving the level of service out there and make sure going through security is as thorough and kindly as can be.”
The airport reported average wait times of 10 minutes at checkpoints in August, although waits hit 30 minutes during peak moments of what was the busiest summer at the local airport in nearly a decade.
Wheat also cited improved baggage claim service by airlines and a new food court in Terminal A as possible reasons the airport got better scores. The airport recently launched a website and smartphone program that shows airport users how many parking spots are available in each lot and garage in real time.
“We’re constantly looking at ways to improve how we relate to our customers,” he said.
The airport plans to open what officials believe will be the largest on-site airport solar farm in the state late this year, which officials say will reduce the airport’s electricity costs. It also has put out a request for developer proposals to build an on-airport hotel. Several previous attempts to finance and build a hotel have failed.