NEW YORK • Had a bad experience at the Newark Liberty Airport last year? You’re not alone, according to recent rankings.
The New Jersey hub ranked as the worst US airport in the 2019 annual ratings from AirHelp, an organisation that specialises in air traveller rights and seeks compensation in cases of delays or cancellations.
US airports in general didn’t fare particularly well, with the highest- rated Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport taking 34th place of 132 around the world.
Newark held the lowest US spot, at 116.
A major reason is weather-related delays, said AirHelp CEO Henrik Zillmer; they are a huge problem for American airports, compared to European ones.
“If you have the slightest amount of snow at the John F Kennedy International Airport, the airport will close,” Zillmer, said, referring to the New York hub that ranked 86th.
Beyond that, quality of service in the US has room for improvement, with long security lines a frequent problem.
The airports are rated based on three factors — on-time performance, service quality, and food and shopping options. The first accounts for 60% of the score and the other criteria each make up 20%.
AirHelp’s data comes from multiple commercial vendors, along with its own database, plus 40,000 passenger surveys collected in 40 countries during 2018.
Topping AirHelp’s rankings are Doha’s Hamad International Airport, Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport and the Athens International Airport, which have taken the top spots since the ratings began in 2015.
It’s worth considering the overall picture of each airport in looking at the list. For instance, high ratings for Athens puzzled the AirHelp team at first, said Zillmer, until you consider that its sunny weather results in fewer delays, and vacationers are more likely to leave positive reviews.
Congestion continues to be the biggest problem facing airports: The flight industry is experiencing a rapid increase in global tourism.
The Worldwide Tourism Organisation estimates that worldwide international tourist arrivals increased 6%, to 1.4 billion in 2018.
“Some airports are expanding quickly, but it’s still a big issue for most, especially during peak hours,” said Zillmer.
On another note, among the 72 airlines for which the company has statistically significant data, AirHelp rated them by on-time performance, service quality and claim processing, with each category weighed equally.
For the second year in a row, Qatar Airways ranked as the top airline, followed by American Airlines, Aero- mexico, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, and Qantas in the top five.
At the bottom of the list were Ryanair, Korean Air, Kuwait Airways, and the UK’s EasyJet and Thomas Cook Airlines.
Better weather conditions led to fewer flight disruptions in 2018 overall, Zillmer said, with on-time performance improving across the board.
This may have contributed to American Airlines securing the second-place spot — a big jump, considering that the airline ranked 23rd last year.
United Airlines Inc and Delta Air Lines Inc were also significantly higher in 2018 than in 2017, respectively ranking 16th and 17th, compared to 37th and 47th.
One area Zillmer in which said many airlines need to improve is claim-processing operations, which tidily wraps into the mission of AirHelp.
Instead of cancelling a flight as soon as it’s clear that a plane won’t be able to fly, many force passengers to wait in the airport during long flight delays.
“They’re not economically incentivised to put you on a different airline to get you to your destination,” he said, hoping that rankings like this can shed light on how airlines are falling short and motivate them to step up service. — Bloomberg