John Wayne Airport Ranked Among Nation’s Best by J.D. Power

September 28, 2020 Updated: September 28, 2020

Orange County’s John Wayne Airport was ranked in a tie for No. 2 among large airports in North America for traveler satisfaction, in data analytics company J.D. Power’s annual survey.

The ranking continues a strong run for JWA since being added to the large category in 2017. The airport took the top spot in the large airport rankings in both 2017 and 2018.

The 2020 North American Airport Satisfaction Study was conducted from August 2019 through July 2020 and took into account over 26,000 completed surveys.

Dallas Love Field ranked first in the division with a score of 844, while JWA followed closely behind in a tie for second with Tampa International Airport. Both had a score of 837.

The survey covered both departure and arrival experiences among U.S. and Canadian residents who had traveled through at least one U.S. or Canadian airport during the past 30 days.

The study, in its 15th year and released on Sept. 23, grouped airports by size. John Wayne Airport (JWA) was ranked in the “large” division, which includes those with 10 million to 32.9 million passengers per year.

Other categories included “mega” airports, with more than 33 million passengers each year, which was won by Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, and “medium” airports with from 4.5 million to 10 million annual passengers, for which Indianapolis International Airport took the top spot.

Deanne Thompson, manager of public affairs for JWA, said the Orange County airport did well with customers because it is “committed to providing a superior guest experience.”

“During the first few months of the survey, guests ranked us highly based on convenience, cleanliness, and an overall exceptional experience,” Thompson told The Epoch Times.

“During the past few months, guests responded to our efforts to provide a cleaner and safer travel experience.”

J.D. Power noted that overall customer satisfaction within North American airports had grown sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic—reaching a record high—but attributed the rise to less crowding within airport terminals.

Due to the pandemic, travelers are able to quickly pass through security checkpoints, baggage claims, food services, and other retail experiences without waiting in long lines. The survey noted that only 40 percent as many travelers were found in airports over Labor Day weekend compared to the same weekend in 2019.

The survey measured overall traveler satisfaction in six different factors, including, in order of importance, terminal facilities, airport arrival and departure, baggage claim, security check, check-in, and food, beverage, and retail services.

Epoch Times Photo
A 9-foot-tall statue of John Wayne stands at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Calif., on June 26, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

While JWA continues to perform well in terms of traveler satisfaction, the number of passengers has dropped significantly and the airport has been deeply affected by the pandemic, Thompson said.

According to the Orange County Business Council’s annual Community Indicators Report, the JWA passenger count fell from over 750,000 in February to just over 25,000 in April.

“Traffic is down about 70 percent compared to year-over-year passenger volume,” Thompson said. The numbers, however, are “a significant improvement from April of this year, when traffic was down 97 percent.”

“We expect to see this trend continue, with passenger traffic steadily building over the next several months,” she said.

On Sept. 28, the airport announced that August passenger traffic had dropped nearly 72 percent when compared with August 2019, to just over 266,000 people for the month.

Commercial aircraft operations dropped just over 50 percent in August compared with the same month a year ago.

Overall passenger traffic at the airport year-to-date through August is down around 62 percent from the same period in 2019, according to the news release, dropping from over 7 million passengers in 2019 to around 2.7 million this year.

To help mitigate lost revenue, JWA received $45 million in April from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provided billions of dollars in relief for airports struggling during the pandemic.

JWA was also granted $1.2 million from the Federal Aviation Commission to install airfield guidance signs, runway lighting, and navigational aids, according to a Sept. 1 announcement.

To encourage returning passengers, the airport has set up a new photo-based “Aging as Art” exhibit for guests to view as they travel through the terminals.

“The photographs depicting the diversity, dignity, and realities of the aging experience are the work of amateur and professional photographers,” Thompson said.

The exhibit features winning entries from a juried competition held by the Council on Aging, and is available for viewing in the Vi Smith Concourse Gallery.

The curated display, which depicts each photographer’s unique interpretation of the aging experience, will remain in place until March 2021.