O’Hare climbs in airport ratings

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A United Airlines jet takes off at O’Hare Airport in September 2014. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

O’Hare International Airport ranks near the bottom of a passenger satisfaction survey by the respected JD Power & Associates market research firm, though the nation’s second-busiest airport did improve its score for the second consecutive year.

On a 1,000-point scale, rating the airport experience from baggage check-in to Transportation Security Administration lines to airport restaurant options, O’Hare tallied a 723 score, third-lowest among the continent’s 18 largest “mega airports,” and ahead of only Los Angeles International Airport and Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey. Among large airports, Midway Airport rated a 750 points, just above the average.

The scores were based on polling of about 34,000 passengers over the last year at dozens of airports across North America. With 78 million passengers, O’Hare typically ranks as the second-busiest airport in the nation, behind only Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which received a score of 747.

O’Hare scored 689 last year, with JD Power crediting better on-time performance, though the firm chalked up the improvement to mild weather. And scores climbed despite passenger outrage in March, when short-staffing at TSA checkpoints clogged travelers for as long as two hours before wait times dropped to a more reasonable 40 minutes at peak times.

Airport spokeswoman Lauren Huffman said Wednesday that O’Hare had the shortest wait times among the nation’s largest airports during the peak summer travel season. Huffman also noted that infrastructure improvements in the O’Hare Modernization Program have reduced flight delays by 57 percent and increased the airport’s flight capacity by 50 percent.

And being marooned in O’Hare’s terminals might be marginally more pleasant, thanks to the addition in recent years of high-end restaurants, including the Publican Tavern and Rick Bayless’ Tortas Fronteras.

“Providing passengers a world class travel experience is a top priority, and while O’Hare’s aged facilities call for much needed improvements, the good news is that we are addressing them head on with our plans to modernize and grow for the future,” Huffman said in a statement.

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