Top airports in North America are ...

Story highlights

  • A US state with a strong coffee culture has the best large airport
  • More airports are using technology to make improvements

(CNN)Portland, Oregon is a coffee town, and its airport reflects that obsession with caffeine.

Local favorites Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Portland Roasting Coffee share real estate along the concourses with Peets and Starbucks.
Going local is one of the ways Portland's airport distinguishes itself from other airports around the continent, and clearly it's working: Portland was ranked the top large North American airport in the J.D. Power 2016 North America Airport Satisfaction Study, released Thursday.
Thanks to airports "going local" and technological improvements, an increased number of travelers are actually happy with their airports.
Overall satisfaction with large airports is 724 on a 1,000-point scale, a 5-point increase from 2015, while satisfaction with medium airports is 760, an 8-point increase, according to the J.D. Power study.
The 2016 study was is based on responses from more than 38,000 North American travelers who traveled through at least one domestic or international airport with both departure and arrival experiences during the past three months. Thirty-one large airports and 33 medium airports were ranked in the study.
All this satisfaction comes as airports are facing annual 5-6% increases in traveler numbers.

Airports are going local

The Portland airport doesn't look exactly like the Indianapolis (Indiana) International Airport, the top medium-sized airport.
"Top performing airports are offering passengers unique experiences that reflect their locale," said Michael Taylor, director of J.D. Power's airline practice.
"Portland International (786 points) provides a 'sense of place' by incorporating Great Northwest design themes into the airport, even into the flooring itself. Indianapolis (794 points) has rotating displays of antique Indy race cars. You won't see that at the next airport."

How airports are getting better

Airports weren't necessarily built for the numbers of travelers and flights they are currently handling.
They're adapting, says Taylor, using technology to improve check-in, security screening, and dining and retail options.

Construction dampens satisfaction

Construction, while necessary to bring improvements, is one factor that's likely to cause a dip in airport satisfaction.
A multibillion dollar redesign of New York's last-place LaGuardia Airport (649 points) has likely contributed to a 6-point drop in overall satisfaction this year, while completion of the redesign of Terminal 2 at Los Angeles International in February is "partly responsible for a hefty 32-point jump in overall satisfaction" to 702 points, said Taylor. LAX is still in 26th space, though, just six spots from the bottom.
At the same time, mild weather has contributed to a 9-point increase in satisfaction at O'Hare International Airport (689 points, 28th place), which can face weather-related delays beyond its control.
Top five large airports
1. Portland (Ore.) International Airport
2. Tampa International Airport
3. Las Vegas McCarran Airport
4. Orlando International Airport
5. Miami International Airport
Top five medium airports
1. Indianapolis International Airport
2. Buffalo Niagara International Airport
3. Fort Myers/Southwest Florida International Airport
4. Jacksonville International Airport
5. Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport