No, seriously — travelers like San Antonio International Airport

SAN ANTONIO – Travelers from here love to complain about their airport. And they have a lot to do.

The San Antonio International Airport is a tiny facility and lacking in character — a monument to the city government’s former life as a curmudgeon who never dated much.

His motto should be: “You can’t get there directly from here.”

City aviation officials are beginning a 20-year, $2.5 billion expansion of San Antonio International, driven primarily by the region’s projected population growth and rising demand for air travel. These are good reasons to build a new Terminal C, renovate Terminal A, extend the runways and make the town look more like San Antonio.

In the quiet corners of their minds, however, these officials probably just want the whining to stop — and digging deep into their pockets to find one of the largest capital projects in San Antonio history may be the best way to get there.

Grasping can easily become a habit, which means it won’t stop even when new, exculpatory information comes to light. Like the results of this year’s JD Power customer satisfaction survey at North American airports.

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The ranking released on Wednesday puts San Antonio Airport in a pretty good light. In the category of major airports with 10 to 32.9 million passengers per year, San Antonio International ranked ninth out of 27 facilities with a score of 802 out of 1,000. It was just one point lower than Houston’s Hobby Airport.

A bonus for Austin haters (who need to get over this): Austin-Bergstrom International Airport came in 15th, fairly high up in the bottom half. Tip: Have fewer power outages.

Tampa International Airport topped the list, and woe to Philadelphians that travelers ranked their airport as the worst.

It’s important to note that JD Power surveys set the standard for measuring customer satisfaction. The company ranks airports according to their terminal facilities; Arrival and departure; baggage claims; security checks; check-ins and baggage checks; and Food, Beverage and Retail.

Terminal facilities – It’s likely to be assumed that many of San Antonio’s lost 198 points went there. They squeezed into Terminal A, which has one of the narrowest concourses of any major city airport in the country. And the mildest.

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The busiest airports in Texas — Dallas/Fort Worth International and Bush Intercontinental in Houston — were in the “mega” category, handling at least 33 million passengers a year. D/FW finished eighth out of 20 with 778 points; Bush finished 15th,
just in the bottom quartile with 758 points.

holding pattern

San Antonio International achieved the same ranking in 2021 as the travel industry began to emerge from its COVID-induced coma. This year it has more or less reached full consciousness; JD Power estimates air travel has returned to 91 percent of pre-pandemic levels. But airports still have problems.

Aside from numerous delays and cancellations due to flight attendant and pilot shortages in the United States, 58 percent of the 26,500 travelers surveyed this year complained of severely or moderately crowded terminals.

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And airports are not immune to inflation. Almost a quarter of passengers told JD Power they don’t buy food or drink at airports because of the insane prices.

Parking is also a problem. Passengers said parking spaces were scarce and the ones they could find — on the 13th floor of the parking tower with the broken elevators — cost a fortune.

Not surprisingly, overall satisfaction with US airports has declined this year, albeit by just 25 points.

But despite the turmoil, San Antonio Airport — which plans to complete two new gates in Terminal B and one in Terminal A this fall, and to begin construction of Terminal C in 2024 — has held its ground. Airport officials also said more passengers passed through the facility in July than any month since December 2019, when we were only faintly aware of the coronavirus. That’s a happy thing.

OK, not necessarily cheering.

This is something not to complain about.

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