Airport satisfaction is high among US travelers, but so are stress levels

December 6, 2022
  • Nine out of ten US airport travelers are satisfied with the airport experience
  • Nearly half (45%) of US airport travelers find the crowds in airports to be stressful
  • More than seven in ten (73%) US airport travelers agree they feel taken advantage of when it comes to the cost of things at airports

As US consumers and airports prepare for holiday travel, airports, and their associated businesses, can rest a little easier. Mintel research shows airports’ efforts to increase passenger satisfaction have paid off: 90% of air passengers are satisfied with the airport experience, with half (50%) saying they’re very satisfied. Four in 10 US travelers are very satisfied with airport security (45%), cleanliness (42%), and in-airport navigation (39%). 

Mintel research reveals that the principal attributes of ‘what makes a good airport’ are efficient security (79% consumers satisfaction), good gate areas (78%) and convenience in getting to the airport (78%). The biggest areas for improvement regarding consumer satisfaction are retail (64% satisfied) and entertainment (54%) options.

Mike Gallinari, Senior Travel & Leisure Analyst at Mintel, said:

“Good airport experiences aren’t just a nicety for travelers; there’s a link between passenger happiness and increased airport spending. Given that there’s a business case for creating a good airport experience, it’s up to not only airports but also businesses to help make a passenger’s time in the airport a pleasant and memorable one. 

“Compared to more functional aspects of the concourse like navigation, food operators, retail shops, and entertainment options are lacking. When it comes to retail shopping, travelers are more inclined to purchase local souvenirs (42%) and reading materials (38%), meaning that purchasing in other categories can be a hard sell. Retailers should concentrate on the demographics that play into their strengths the best in an airport setting and bring products and services that align with their wants, such as DTC brands for younger travelers. If retailers want to flesh out their local goods and souvenir offerings, bringing in local artists and craftsmen aligns with current traveler sensibilities.”

Crowds, costs, and noise stress people out 

The number one stressor for air travelers is the sheer number of people at the airport. Nearly half (45%) of US consumers find the crowds in airports to be stressful followed by the cost of things inside the airport (40%) and noise (23%). Seven in 10 (73%) US travelers agree they feel taken advantage of when it comes to the cost of things at airports. 

However, there are stark generational differences: 52% of Baby Boomers (age 58-67) find crowds to be the most stressful compared to 40% of adult Gen Zs (age 18-25). Half (52%) of Baby Boomers find the cost of things in airports to be a stressor compared to a third (35%) of Gen Zs. The greatest disagreement between Boomers and Gen Zs, however, is whether or not the noise in airports is stressful: just 15% of Boomers agree compared to 30% of Gen Zs. 

“Gen Z travelers’ higher tolerance for crowds at airports could present an opening for airport restaurants and vendors to encourage quiet stores/sections, as these younger consumers find being quiet more valuable than being away from a crowd. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that an airport-run library could be valuable, providing one of the most classic quiet areas in a sea of chaos,” concluded Gallinari.

Additional research on consumers and the airport experience, and interviews with the analyst, are available upon request from the Mintel Press Office. For those interested in purchasing the full report, please visit the Mintel Store.

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