Agents Rank Top Airports for Business Travel

Nearly everyone likes lists. Most people (we're making a bit of an assumption here) enjoy some aspect of flying — the convenience, the free peanuts when you get them, having an empty seat next to you.

Seriosusly, flying and business are a reality for many. A nationwide survey of agents representing Travel Leaders Group identified the bests and worsts among U.S. airports for business travel. A few of the findings:

Atlanta ranks as the top preferred domestic airport if clients have a connecting flight, while Chicago O’Hare ranks as the top domestic airport to avoid if making a connection. Atlanta's Hartsfield–Jackson also was identified as the top airport for amenities, dining and providing the best services for business travelers; Minneapolis/St. Paul ranked second in amenities, dining, and for helping to keep kids entertained and occupied.

Best U.S. Airports for Connecting Flights:
Travel Leaders Group owners, managers and agents were asked, “If your clients are flying and need to connect through a hub airport, which hub do they prefer?” Respondents were allowed to choose up to three airports.
1 Atlanta 40.5%
2 Charlotte 25.2%
3 Dallas/Ft. Worth 24.3%
4 Houston Intercontinental 18.2%
5 Detroit 17.5%
6 Minneapolis/St. Paul 16.7%
7 Chicago O’Hare 14.1%
8 Phoenix 10.1%
9 Denver 8.0%
10 (tie) New York (JFK) 7.9%
10 (tie) Salt Lake City 7.9%

Worst U.S. Airports for Connecting Flights:
When asked, “If your clients are flying and need to connect through a hub airport, which hub do they try to avoid?” the top responses were as follows.  (Again, those polled were able to choose up to three different airports.)
1 Chicago O’Hare 56.3%
2 New York (JFK) 39.4%
3 Atlanta 33.0%
4 New York (LGA) 13.7%
5 Newark 12.2%
6 Miami 11.5%
7 Denver 10.3%
8 Philadelphia 10.0%
9 Dallas/Ft. Worth 9.4%
10 Los Angeles 9.1%

Top U.S. Airports for Business Travel Services:
When asked, “Which airport(s) would you and your clients say offers the best services for business travelers?” nearly 700 agents responded with the following list of Top 10 airports:
1 Atlanta 42.2%
2 Chicago O’Hare 29.8%
3 Dallas/Ft. Worth 20.5%
4 Minneapolis/St. Paul 18.3%
5 New York (JFK) 15.2%
6 Detroit 12.7%
7 Houston Intercontinental 10.3%
8 Los Angeles 9.0%
9 New York (LGA) 7.5%
10 (tie) Newark 6.3%
10 (tie) San Francisco 6.3%
10 (tie) Washington D.C. (Dulles) 6.3%

Top U.S. Airports for Amenities:
Today, airport amenities can range from spas and yoga rooms to art exhibits and putting greens. When asked, “What do you and your clients consider the top airport for amenities?” agents listed this top five:  Atlanta, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas/Ft. Worth and Las Vegas.

The top five for dining matched the above question, with the exception of San Francisco subbing for Las Vegas at No. 5.

Finally, for top airports when traveling with kids, the winners were: Orlando,  Minneapolis/St. Paul, Atlanta, Chicago O’Hare and Dallas/Ft. Worth.

Indianapolis Executive Airport Flys High with Top Award

The Indianapolis Executive Airport, managed by Montgomery Aviation (an Indiana Chamber member), was recently honored as the Aviation Association of Indiana’s 2009 Airport of the Year. The award has been given every year since 2004:

Airports are evaluated based on economic development, contributions to aviation education, corporate citizenship and community outreach, safety and security, environmental improvements and aesthetics…

Factors contributing to IEA’s recognition include strategic planning and growth, making IEA the eight-largest economic impact airport in Indiana by 2008, with an estimated impact of more than $87 million for 2008. Through corporate citizenship and community outreach, IEA has positively impacted surrounding organizations and thereby contributed to overall economic development as well. Charitable or-ganizations benefiting from IEA’s extensive outreach program include the Down Syndrome Indiana, Commemorative Air Force (CAF), Jackson Center, CureSearch (National Childhood Cancer Foundation), St. Vincent Hospital Foundation, Indian-apolis Art Center, Special Olympics, Muscular Dystrophy Association, National Brain Tumor Foundation, Cerebral Palsy and Witham Hospital. The airport is also sponsor and host to a number of community organizations in Boone and Hamilton counties that benefit from the airport’s active participation.

Other initiatives contributing to this recognition include IEA’s completion of a $3.4 million runway project funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that employed 80 workers for approximately two months. It was the first ARRA airport construction project started and finished in the state and possi-bly the country for airport development and infrastructure improvement.

You can read more about Montgomery Aviation’s exceptional services in my article in the new BizVoice magazine about business aviation.

To Err (Air) May Be Human, But Costly

I enjoyed an interesting weekend, but that’s not why you come to this forum. Except, in this case, there is a business-related angle. The enjoyment involved the NCAA tournament, the nation’s gaming capital and you can guess the rest.

The implications for business started with West Coast winds that rocked our plane back and forth while it was still sitting at the gate. Thus, a long delay … a late arrival in a southern city with what I believe still has the busiest airport in the world … a missed connection … unhappy fellow passengers wanting to stage a riot … an overnight stay.

On the anecdotal side, a fellow passenger who said he once worked for Southwest Airlines (not the culprit here), offers that the in-air claims of "we’re working with the gate agents to do everything we can to help you make your connections" are bogus. On the more factual side, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) offers a paper titled "What Happened to the Airline Industry?" 

Among the fact-based review of industry changes is the statement: "Delays and full flights had made passengers so averse to connecting flights that adding a layover to the route could reduce the number of passengers on it by almost four-fifths." I’m not sure about that total, but NBER has the breakdown here.

Urbanity, Not Insanity, Could be Future of American Airport Experience

If you’re like me, flying is arduous work. For this observer, the pain lies in the stress of trying to make a flight, hoping it’s not delayed once I get there, all the while wondering what kind of halitosis factory I’ll have to sit next to for the next three hours.

However, the airport experience itself doesn’t have to be that bad. I’m currently in the process of scheduling an interview for our September/October edition of BizVoice, in which I’ll feature the new airport terminal in Indianapolis. Should be a very interesting interview and I’m looking forward to learning about all the new amenities and how it will benefit businesses in the state.

I also came across this interesting piece by economic development columnist William Fulton in which he explains a potential evolution into "new urbanist" airports that also serve as business centers.