Toronto Pearson scores near bottom in North American airport ranking

Toronto Pearson International Airport is ranked 16th out of the 20 largest North American airports, scoring below average in J.D. Power’s annual customer satisfaction survey after a summer marked by congested terminals and flight disruptions.

Pearson scored 755 out of a possible 1,000 points, below the average of 769, but an improvement over the 2021 ratings, when it came second last.

The best airports in the “mega” category are Minneapolis St. Paul, San Francisco, Detroit Metropolitan and New York’s John F. Kennedy, according to J.D. Power, a U.S. consumer research company. The survey was released Wednesday.

“The combination of pent-up demand for air travel, the nationwide labour shortage and steadily rising prices on everything from jet fuel to a bottle of water have created a scenario in which airports are extremely crowded and passengers are increasingly frustrated – and it is likely to continue through 2023,” said Michael Taylor, a managing director at J.D. Power.

Tori Gass, a spokeswoman for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, operator of Pearson, said the airport is working with the government agencies, airlines and other companies to improve operations. Logjams at the airport have been blamed on staff shortages at government agencies, contractors and carriers, all of which faced a steep surge in travellers.

“We recognize the frustrations that travellers have experienced recently at Pearson and it’s not what we want for our passengers,” Ms. Gass said in an e-mail.

Vancouver International Airport scored 11th of the 27 large airports, a category led by Tampa International Airport. Calgary ranked 17th. In the medium-sized airport category, Edmonton placed 12th of 18.

Over all, 58 per cent of the 26,500 survey respondents described airport terminals as severely or moderately crowded. This is almost the same as the 2019 results. One quarter of respondents said high prices kept them from buying food or drinks at the airports, up from 20 per cent in 2021.

“In some ways, this is a return to normal as larger crowds at airports tend to make travellers more frazzled,” Mr. Taylor said, “but in cases where parking lots are over capacity, gates are standing room only and restaurants and bars are not even open to offer some reprieve, it is clear that increased capacity in airports can’t come soon enough.”

The survey of Americans and Canadians who travelled in the previous 30 days asked them about six factors: terminal facilities; airport arrival/departure; baggage claim; security check; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage and retail. The survey period was for the 12 months ending in July, 2022.

Pearson’s Ms. Gass said the sample size – 637 people were surveyed about Pearson – is too small. She said Pearson was the only Canadian airport in the largest category. “As the COVID protocols and restrictions have been different between Canada and the U.S., this may not be an accurate comparison,” Ms. Gass said. “Pearson rapidly went from one of the world’s most shut-down major airports to one of its busiest.”

Mr. Taylor defended the sample as statistically valid, noting the company has been conducting such surveys for 50 years. Pearson is “suffering from the same issues as everyone else,” Mr. Taylor said by phone.

J.D. Power defines Pearson’s “mega” category as a hub that brings in at least 33 million passengers a year. “Large” airport passenger volumes are between 10 million and 33 million.

Newark, Philadelphia and Hollywood ranked last in their respective categories.