The 20 best large airports in the US, according to travelers

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport
  • J.D. Power named Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport as the top large airport in the US.
  • Airport rankings were based on customer surveys, focusing on things like dining options and terminal facilities.
  • Customer satisfaction was skewed over the study period due to changing traveler expectations during the pandemic.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

J.D. Power revealed its 2021 North America Airport Satisfaction Study on Wednesday, naming Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport as the top large airport in the US, earning 844 out of a possible 1,000 customer satisfaction points.

The data analytics company looked at six areas of interest when ranking each airport, including, in order of importance from most to least, terminal facilities; airport arrival/departure; baggage claim; security check; check-in/baggage check; and food, beverage, and retail.

Large airports, which J.D. Power defines as having 10 to 32.9 million passengers per year, received an average score of 805, up 25 points from 2020. Mega airports, which the company defines as having over 33 million passengers per year, received an average score of 798. Overall, customers gave a record-setting average score of 802 for all US airports in the 2021 study.

According to J.D. Power, customer satisfaction was skewed over the year, with the best scores occurring from July 2020 to January 2021 and falling from January 2021 to July 2021. Company analysts say this is because of customer expectations. In the first half of the study, the pandemic was still raging and customers were simply happy to see some amenities available at airports, while in the second half during the travel boom they expected more, but were disappointed with the number of open shops and restaurants.

"Airport customer satisfaction reached all-time highs when passenger volumes were severely suppressed by the pandemic, but as leisure travel rebounded sharply throughout the spring and summer of 2021, we saw an expected downturn in satisfaction. Ultimately, the data conveys changing expectations among travelers. Early in the pandemic, passengers were satisfied with any shop or restaurant being open, but they now expect full service at the airport," explained Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power.

According to J.D. Power, passenger volumes have increased to 75% of pre-pandemic levels, but many travelers are arriving at airports with limited food, beverage, and retail vendors. The company explained these are key for a positive airport experience and blame labor shortages for the lack of options.

Here's a closer look at J.D. Power's top 20 large airports for customer satisfaction in the US.

20. Philadelphia International Airport: 758 points

Philadelphia Airport
Philadelphia International Airport

Philadelphia International Airport jumped four spots from 2019 to round out this year's top 20 list. The airport is the 21st busiest in the US and hosts 24 cargo and commercial airlines that serve over 100 destinations worldwide. The airport acts as a base for American Airlines and UPS Airlines and as a focus city for Frontier Airlines.

19. LaGuardia Airport: 781 points

New LaGuardia Airport
LaGuardia Airport

LaGuardia Airport jumped seven spots from 26 in 2020 to 19 in 2021. The airport is the third busiest in terms of passenger traffic serving New York City and has a perimeter rule prohibiting flights that are more than 1,500 miles. LaGuardia serves nine commercial airlines and is a hub for American Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

18. Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport: 785 points

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport
Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport dropped two spots from 16 to 18 in this year's rankings. The airport serves the Baltimore and Washington DC areas and is the 22nd busiest in the US. Baltimore serves 36 commercial, charter, and cargo airlines and is a base for Southwest Airlines.

17. Houston's William P. Hobby Airport: 794 points

Houston Hobby Airport
Houston Hobby Airport

Houston Hobby Airport fell 13 spots from four in 2020 to number 17 in 2021. The airport is the second busiest in Houston and is a hub for Southwest Airlines. The airport also hosts Allegiant Air, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines.

15. Kansas City International Airport: 800 points (tie)

Kansas City International Airport
Kansas City International Airport

Kansas City International Airport jumped four spots to 15 this year, tieing with Chicago Midway International Airport. The airport serves 17 commercial, cargo, and charter airlines. Kansas City's identifier code is MCI instead of KCI because the airport was originally called Mid-Continent International Airport, or MCI, and IATA adopted that as its designator code.

15. Chicago Midway International Airport: 800 points (tie)

Chicago Midway International Airport
Chicago Midway International Airport

Chicago Midway International Airport tied with Kansas City International Airport for its number 15 spot, up to two from 2020. The airport was Chicago's first airport and is named after the hard-fought Battle of Midway during WWII. Midway serves five commercial airlines and is a hub for Southwest, which handles 95% of passenger traffic at the airport.

14. St. Louis Lambert International Airport: 801 points

St. Louis Lambert International Airport
St. Louis Lambert International Airport

St. Louis Lambert International Airport jumped five spots from number 19 in 2020. The airport is the largest and busiest in Missouri and was a primary hub for Trans World Airlines before its collapse. St. Louis serves 13 commercial and charter airlines and is a hub for Cape Air and regional carrier Air Choice One.

12. Washington Dulles International Airport: 802 points (tie)

Dulles Airport
Washington-Dulles International Airport

Washington Dulles International Airport tied with Sacramento International Airport, jumping one spot from number 13 in 2020 to 12 in 2021. Dulles serves the nation's capital and was named after John Foster Dulles who was the 52nd US Secretary of State under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The airport is the capital region's international hub offering 52 nonstop routes out of the country. Dulles serves 36 commercial airlines and is a hub for United Airlines and Southern Airways Express.

12. Sacramento International Airport: 802 points (tie)

Sacramento International Airport
Sacramento International Airport

Sacramento International Airport tied with Washington Dulles International Airport in this year's rankings, dropping five spots from seven to 12. The airport serves the state's capital and hosts 15 airlines operating to 43 domestic and international destinations. Sacramento is a hub for Southwest Airlines which handles a majority of passenger traffic at the airport.

11. Portland International Airport: 803 points

Portland International Airport PDX main terminal rendering
Portland International Airport

Portland International Airport dropped six spots from 2020. The airport is a joint military-civil airport and is the largest airport in Oregon accounting for 90% of passenger traffic in the state. The airport hosts 17 commercial airlines serving 76 domestic and international cities. Portland is a hub for Alaska Airlines and its regional carrier Horizon Air.

10. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport: 804 points

Concourse C at Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport - Priority Pass Restaurant
Ronald Reagan Washing National Airport

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport ranked number ten this year, jumping five spots from 2020. The airport has a perimeter rule restricting most airlines from flying more than 1,250 statute miles nonstop in any direction, though there are exemptions. Named for the 40th US president, Ronald Reagan hosts eight commercial carriers and is a hub for American Airlines.

9. San Antonio International Airport: 813 points

San Antonio International Airport
San Antonio International Airport

San Antonio International Airport took the number nine spot this year and upgraded from a medium-sized to a large airport in 2021. The airport serves 13 commercial airlines and flies nonstop to over 50 cities in the US and Mexico. San Antonio is a non-hub airport, though Southwest Airlines has a large presence.

8. San Diego International Airport: 814 points

San Diego Airport
San Diego International Airport

San Diego International Airport ranked eight this year after not making the top 20 list last year. The airport is the busiest single-runway airport in the world and hosts 18 airlines. San Diego mostly serves domestic markets but has 10 international destinations across Canada, Mexico, Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom. While not a hub airport, San Diego is a focus city for Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

7. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport: 819 points

Travelers stand in line at a TSA security checkpoint at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, in Austin, Texas.
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport ranked seven this year, jumping one spot from number eight in 2020. The airport hosts 18 airlines and is the third-busiest airport in Texas. Considered the "Silicon Hills," Austin is attracting more business and leisure travelers, prompting airlines to increase service to the city. The airport is non-hub but is a focus city for Southwest Airlines.

6. Nashville International Airport: 820 points

Nashville International Airport
Nashville International Airport

Nashville International Airport jumped four spots from ten to six in 2021's top 20 list. The airport serves 88 domestic and international destinations and hosts 18 commercial airlines. Nashville got its identifier code, BNA, from its original name, Berry Field Nashville. The non-hub airport is a focus city for Allegiant Air but was a base for American Airlines up until 1995.

5. Salt Lake City International Airport: 826 points

New Salt Lake City International Airport
Salt Lake City International Airport

Salt Lake City International Airport jumped one spot to number five in this year's rankings. The airport is the closest commercial airport for over 2.5 million people and serves nearly 100 destinations. Salt Lake hosts eight commercial airlines and is a major hub for Delta Air Lines, which handles about 70% of the airport's passenger traffic.

4. Dallas Love Field: 829 points

Passengers at Love Field in 2014
Dallas Love Field Airport

Dallas Love Field Airport was the number one large airport in 2020 but fell three spots in 2021. Love Field was the city's primary airport until Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport opened in 1974. The airport was subject to flight restrictions imposed by the Wright Amendment, which prevented Southwest from operating flights outside of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Southwest Airlines is the main operator out of Love Field, though Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines also offer flights.

3. Raleigh-Durham International Airport: 841 points

Delta Elite Status Day Trip - Raleigh Durham International Airport
Raleigh Durham International Airport

Raleigh-Durham International Airport jumped six spots to number three in this year's rankings. The airport hosts 11 commercial airlines and offers nonstop service to 42 domestic and international destinations, including Toronto, Montego Bay, and Cancun. Raleigh-Durham acts as a focus city for Frontier Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

2. Tampa International Airport: 843 points

Tampa Airport
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport

Tampa International Airport is this year's runner-up, maintaining its 2020 rank. The airport is an international gateway to Florida and pioneered the people over design in the 1960s. Tampa hosts 20 commercial airlines serving 100 destinations across the US and abroad. The airport is a hub for Silver Airways and a focus city for Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and startup Breeze Airways.

1. Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport: 844 points

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport took the number one spot in the 2021 J.D. Power top 20 rankings, jumping an impressive 10 spots from 2020. Named for the famous native-born musician, Louis Armstrong was originally called Moisant Airport and got its identifier code, MSY, from the land it was built on, the Moisant Stock Yards. New Orleans hosts 18 commercial airlines and serves 65 nonstop destinations. The airport is a hub for Southwest Airlines and Breeze Airways.

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