Passengers are not happy with SFO

Passenger happiness at Bay Area airports has not been cleared for takeoff, according to a new national report.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2008 airport satisfaction study ranked San Francisco International Airport second to worst out of the nation’s 20 largest airports in terms of customer satisfaction. Of the country’s 21 medium-size airports, the study ranked Oakland International Airport last and San Jose Mineta International Airport second to last.

The annual report ranked the airports based on passengers’ online responses to six factors: airport accessibility, baggage claim, check in/baggage check process, terminal facilities, security check and food and retail services.

Airport officials are not sold on the survey’s results, however, and claim the findings conflict with other research. Polaris Research and Development conducts an annual SFO survey that recently assigned the airport a customer satisfaction ranking of 4 out of 5, while the J.D. Power survey gave the hub a 2 out of 5.

SFO officials also challenged the validity of the study, saying only North American passengers were surveyed, that no one from J.D. Power ever visited the airport and that the opinions represented in the survey “fly in the face” of official government data.

“SFO’s view is the J.D. Power and Associates survey of airports is about as reliable and scientific for measuring customer satisfaction as ‘American Idol’ is for predicting success in the music industry,” said SFO spokesman Mike McCarron.

J.D. Power’s research lasted 12 months and included responses from 21,165 passengers who evaluated the departing, arriving and connecting airports from a round-trip flight this year.

“[SFO] is so big it’s kind of tough to get around and find everything,” passenger Randy Gilbert said at SFO on Sunday.

The airport’s low rankings may merely be a symptom of the Bay Area’s affluence, said study director Jim Gaz. He said Bay Area customers may be used to high-end amenities and could scrutinize normal services as substandard.

SFO did climb a notch from last year’s J.D. Power survey, when it was last among large airports. Oakland was tied for No. 17 and San Jose was No. 23 out of 25 medium-size airports last year.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

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