Q&A in the News
March 16, 2011
Business travelers pick their favorite airports
Frequent business traveler Earl Quenzel says he thinks his hometown airport — Southwest Florida International – is the best.
The airport, says Quenzel, who owns an advertising agency in Fort Myers, Fla., is "one of the easiest airports in the world to get to and through."
Convenience and easy access are reasons Quenzel and many other travelers repeatedly cite when choosing a favorite airport, according to a survey of 890 frequent fliers on USA TODAY's panel of Road Warriors, frequent travelers who voluntarily provide information on travel.
Southwest Florida International Airport has a new terminal in 2005 that lets visitors go from baggage claim to the beach in less than 30 minutes, the airport's website says.
"Unlike other airports that had to change their physical layouts and baggage handling after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, this airport was designed and constructed from the ground up after Sept. 11," says Quenzel, a former marketing executive at three airlines and a founder of online travel agency Priceline-europe.com. "The terminal is open, clean and comfortable with plenty of seating available, and the baggage system is convenient for passengers and very secure. Even with security clearance, it's often less than 15 minutes from counter to gate."
Many other fliers agree with Quenzel's view of the airport. Southwest Florida International ranked No. 2 among small airports in J.D. Power and Associates' 2010 North America Airport Satisfaction Study.
AIRPORT GUIDE: Southwest Florida International Airport
Indianapolis International — another airport with a new terminal — ranked No. 1 among small airports. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County ranked first among large airports, and Kansas City International ranked highest among midsize airports.
Fast, efficient and friendly
Road Warrior Mike Monroe of Lakeland, Fla., says Indianapolis is his favorite airport because security clearance is fast and efficient, gate agents are friendly, chairs are comfortable and there's ample power supply for his electronic gadgets.
"Maybe it's just the Midwest, but even the passengers there seem nicer," says Monroe, a consultant who took about about 125 flights last year.
AIRPORT GUIDE: Indianapolis International Airport
Frank Luppino, president of a lighting and entertainment products company, puts Kansas City International at the top of his list because of the "ease of everything." He says there are many security checkpoints and bag-claim areas, which make clearing security and retrieving his bags quick processes.
"But, most important," says Luppino of Beach Park, Ill., "it is still an airport where you can get there an hour ahead of your flight and still make it."
AIRPORT GUIDE: Kansas City International Airport
Road Warrior Cella Baker of Apopka, Fla., says Detroit is her favorite airport because it's easy to get around. She loves the tram. The airport has great Delta Air Lines Sky Club lounges, and "the only PB&J take-out I know of," says Baker, a trainer in the cruise industry who flew on more than 100 flights last year.
AIRPORT GUIDE: Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport
Some other Road Warriors say there's no airport like Oregon's Portland International. It's the one airline passengers chose as the top airport during the past two years in Zagat Survey's annual poll.
"I find the Portland airport to not only be convenient, but it also has a great ambience," says Chuck Sena, a frequent flier from Beaver Dam, Wis. "A big part of that is the people. I have yet to run into someone who was surly or treated me poorly."
Sena, who works in the packaging machinery and conveyor industry, says Portland International has "a good selection of food and shopping," comfortable seats, free Wi-Fi access and efficient passenger screening.
"Rental cars are on-site," he says. "And access to the highway system is simple. The only small quibble I have is not really with the airport: I wish they had some gas stations a little closer to the airport."
AIRPORT GUIDE: Portland International Airport
Looking for hassle-free experiences
Road Warriors have mixed opinions about the world's busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, which was rated about average in J.D. Power and Associates' 2010 study and below average in Zagat Survey's 2010 and 2009 surveys.
Karen English of Jacksonville says Atlanta is her favorite because it's run efficiently.
"It may not be new or state of the art, but it moves traffic daily and provides all of the amenities that a business traveler needs," says English, who works in health care sales.
But another Florida resident, Nick Milburn of Sarasota, puts Atlanta at the bottom of his airport list.
"It's noisy, dirty and subject to delays from air traffic volume and weather," says Milburn, an auditor and consultant. "The eating areas are generally jammed and noisy. The size of the airport requires a fair amount of layover to get to your departing gate."
AIRPORT GUIDE: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Road Warriors are equally outspoken about foreign airports.
Quenzel, the former airline marketing executive, says Germany's Munich Airport is his favorite in Europe and Hong Kong is his top choice in Asia.
"Munich Airport is a very hassle-free experience — comfortable, well run with excellent security, and plenty of food and shopping choices," he says. "Hong Kong airport has the best food, bar none."
Quenzel's least favorite is Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. "A terrible layout makes it very difficult to get around," he says. "The staff can't be bothered to help you. It's generally dirty and smells like smoke."
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