RALEIGH-DURHAM AIRPORT – J.D. Power ranks the Raleigh-Durham Airport (RDU) as the third best large airport in North America in its latest Airport Satisfaction Study , the results of which were announced earlier today.

With an overall customer satisfaction score of 841, RDU landed third on the list, following Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport at 844 and Tampa International Airport at 843.  The average customer satisfaction score in this segment was 805.

“We pride ourselves on providing RDU guests with a world-class customer experience and we are honored to be recognized as one of the best airports in North America for traveler satisfaction,” said Michael Landugth, president & CEO of the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority in a statement.  “Protecting the health and safety of our passengers and delivering outstanding customer service remain our top priorities as we continue to welcome people back to air travel.”

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RDU ranked ninth in the 2020 report, with an overall satisfaction score of 799.  In 2020, Dallas Love Field topped the list, with an overall satisfaction score of 844.

For mega airports, Charlotte Douglas International Airport ranked 11th, with a satisfaction score of 796, two points below the segment average of 798.

“We continue to implement new customer satisfaction measures, like expanding our food and beverage options, deploying contactless parking and payment technology and enhancing the amenities guests enjoy when traveling through RDU,” said Stephanie Hawco, the director of media relations for the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority in an interview with WRAL TechWire.

Traffic through RDU increases for 7th straight month, but may not continue

The J.D. Power ratings were based on six factors: terminal facilities, airport arrival/departure, baggage claim, security check, check-in/baggage check, and food, beverage and retail access, quality, and options.

Raleigh-Durham Airport is bolstering amenities, announcing last week that it will contract with Vessel NC Operations LLC, a joint venture of REEF Kitchens and J. Johnson & Company LLC.

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The effort will establish what RDU called “a virtual food hall” in Terminal 2.  The airport noted in a statement that though this is a new concept, the airport expects that providing a wide array of food options, enabling customer choice and convenience a digital, contactless ordering experience for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. RDU believes the new offering will align with current trends in consumer expectations.

The airport has also resumed flight service to Toronto, it announced last week.

But the airport does expect that after a notable recovery in 2021 compared to 2020 summer passenger traffic, travel is still below pre-pandemic levels.  Landguth noted in a statement that travel through RDU may be lower than the summer months due to a seasonally-expected drop off in leisure travel and the continued decrease in business travel.

“With summer breaks ending and students returning to school, Labor Day weekend likely marks the end of the busiest travel period at RDU until the winter holidays,” said Landguth.  “The airport saw passenger traffic steadily recover throughout the summer, but we anticipate fewer travelers in the fall because of the significant decrease in business travel.”

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The latest travel data shared by RDU tracked passenger traffic through the airport between Friday and Monday of Labor Day weekend, with nearly 116,000 people flying during the weekend.  That travel volume was down 33% compared to the same weekend in 2019, the airport said in a statement.

Only 23% of all surveyed passengers who traveled through RDU reported traveling for business, the airport said.  A survey conducted in August 2021 found that 20% of respondents reported their company was still limiting or restricting air travel for business purposes.  Survey results from March 2021 were at 52%.

For August 2021, RDU welcomed more than 880,000 total passengers, a decline of 11% from July 2021, though that mark was a 171% increase compared to August 2020.

“RDU’s recovery has plateaued in recent weeks because corporate travel remains low and that typically offsets the seasonal decline in leisure travel going into the fall months,” said Hawco.  “We expect July, which falls at the height of the summer travel season, to have been our busiest month of the year until passenger traffic picks up again over the winter holidays.”