Is Cincinnati CVG really the best US airport?

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As I was driving up to get my grapes the other day into Southwest Michigan, I had NPR’s Morning Edition on and they had this story that a new world wide survey is out and the top US airport, competing against others across the planet, was CVG.

You can surf over and listen to the story on the NPR site and see what you think. It was also interesting to see Amsterdam #3 on the list and not shocking to see Paris #82. Atlanta ended up #48 and Detroit #79 slightly lower than Minneapolis at #71. JFK landed in at #63.

The list of factors considered they used, found here at http://www.worldairportawards.com/main/methods.htm was the following:

1. Getting to and from the Airport, Ease of Access
2. Public transport options, efficiency and prices
3. Taxi availability and prices
4. Availability of luggage trolleys (airside & landside)
5. Terminal comfort, ambiance and general design and appearance
6. Terminal cleanliness, floors, seating and public areas
7. Seating facilities throughout terminals
8. Immigration – queuing times and system for departure and arrivals
9. Immigration – staff attitude for departure and arrivals
10. Waiting times at Security screening
11. Courtesy and Attitude of Security staff
12. Check-In facilities, queuing systems and seat availability
13. Terminal signage for facilities, boarding gates, transfer and arrivals
14. Clarity of Boarding Calls and Airport PA’s
15. Flight Information Screens – clarity and quality of information
16. Friendliness of Airport Staff
17. Language skills for Airport Staff
18. Ease of Transit through the Airport between flights – for domestic and international
19. Location of Airline Lounges
20. Washroom and Shower facilities in terminal
21. Cleanliness of Washroom facilities
22. TV and Entertainment facilities
23. Quiet areas, Day rooms, Hotel facility, rest areas
24. Children’s play area and facilities provided
25. Choice of Shopping – tax free and other outlets
26. Prices charged in retail outlets
27. Choice of bars, cafes and restaurants, including international options
28. Prices charged in bars, cafes and restaurants
29. Internet facilities and WiFi availability
30. Business center facility
31. Telephone and fax locations
32. Bureau de change facilities
33. ATM facilities
34. Smoking policy and standard of Smoking lounges
35. Standards of disabled access and facilities
36. Baggage Delivery times
37. Priority Baggage Delivery efficiency
38. Lost luggage services
39. Customer perception of airport security and safety standards

Now I am not so sure I agree with this list. I get the idea that this is about the airport itself. But this is not a hotel or a mall. I am going to the airport to fly; to get on a Delta jet. Thus I would have another list. My list would be:

1. TSA Pre line
2. Lots of flights
3. On time flights
4. No or few CRJ100/200’s
5. Skyclubs and +1 with showers
6. Speed from gate to gate
7. Some kind of spa
8. Good restaurants

These, in this order, to me is what make an airport great. Many of the other items on their list are nice but not a priority to me. What do you think? Do you agree about CVG? What do you think of my list and what is your list of top items that make an airport great? – René

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18 comments

  1. Addition by subtraction. CVG is certainly better now than it was as an RJ hub. But I don’t see how you can have ease of access and public transportation as the #1 and #2 criteria and have CVG come out on top…

  2. CVG was fine, but it is a shell of what it once was, hence it’s likelier easier to access and get around due to (much) smaller crowds.
    DTW strikes me as great. Not crowded, good food, OK lounges, tons of connections.
    And yes, CDG should be dead last.

  3. I live in Cincinnati, but often drive to Dayton, Indy, or Columbus to fly out of if that tells you anything about how good of airport CVG is. It often costs 2 times as much to fly out of CVG vs one of those other airports. It scores high on ease, because it is pretty empty.

  4. I also live in Cincinnati and really do like CVG as my main airport. It was clearly designed to handle much larger crowds, so there is always plenty of room to spread out. The airfare prices, at least to the places that I have flown over the past 5 years, are competitive especially when you comparing nonstop vs 1 stop flights at other nearby airports. I always book my west coast flights out of CVG because of the amount of time the nonstop flight saves me. Also, if you are using points, the dollar price doesn’t really matter to me.

    I have flown out of Dayton once and I still have nightmares about that experience. Traffic was horrible (for Ohio) with construction. The parking shuttle skipped our stop twice and the airport has a serious gate lice problem. I felt like I was in a third world country at Dayton airport.

    I have also flown out of Columbus several times when I used to live there. Columbus was great because it was so small. I remember arriving at the airport 30-40 minutes before my flight and not having any issues. That may have changed now due to TSA. Prices in Columbus were usually cheaper than Cincinnati, most likely due to Southwest, but it isn’t worth a 2 hr drive each way to save a few bucks for me.

  5. The fact that most US airports score so low, says it all,
    As much as this survey is certainly flawed, those results still speak for themselves and are shameful.

  6. I prefer MSP over DTW. Never been to JFK, so no comment. I like that ATL is easily accessible by MARTA. Love an airport that has mass transit service so easily like that. I know CDG is loathed by many, but I often only go there when I visit Paris and having the RER to jump on and head into town is fabulous.

    Nothing beats my home airport of MSN, though. Takes me 30 minutes to get out of bed, grab a quick breakfast, drive, park and get through security and sitting at my gate. Love my regional airport. And, it’s actually got a nice, modern terminal.

  7. My two preferred airports are Charlotte (CLT) and Fort Lauderdale (FLL). Very easy to get in and out and also some unique experiences in the airport.

  8. I think you have to look at size and efficiency – how many passengers vs. how well they are served. Mega-airports like ATL and JFK that are constantly working to improve and expand (e.g., new Intl term in ATL, and Term 4 in JFK) get high marks in my book. The NPR list seems to reward smallness – I’m really glad I live in ATL and have easy access to the entire world. It’s my home airport and I know my way around – I’m always surprised when people complain that it’s confusing! The sheer volume in these airports drives demand for the nice amenities on your list, and I agree they make travel so much more pleasant.

  9. CVG is my home airport. I believe they have either won this award or come in at #2 for the past several years going back to the large hub days. I have always felt it was easy to get in/out and through (if connecting gates), they seem to have fairly efficient operations when compared to other airports. CVG-caused ATC delays don’t happen very often, thanks to 4 runways and the ability for 3 to be active at the same time. They have done a lot to improve the creature comforts of the airport over the years i.e. free wi-fi, a renovated concourse A (and consolidation of all airlines in T3), a dedicated large security area, etc. although it doesn’t have the “shopping mall” feel of MSP (which can be good or bad depending on your preference). Even when CVG had 5 direct flights to Europe, customs & immigration was fairly quick compared to other airports. As far as Delta hubs go, if I have to make a connection and kill time in an airport, MSP would be my choice. They have a wide variety of restaurant choices, shops, and decent Sky Clubs.

  10. I live in ATL and used to hate the airport. Now I kind of like it, maybe because I’ve gotten used to it, am Plat, and travel mainly DL (and don’t have to change planes in ATL). My favorite airport for layout and amenities is SIN (no TSA pre-check, however, Rene).

    For those of you familiar with CDG, what would you say is the minimum time necessary there connecting from an AF flight from ATH going to ATL on an AF flight or again at CDG, an AF flight from ATH connecting to a DL flight going to ATL?

    Finally, for those familiar with AF and DL, which Biz Elite seats to you think are better between ATL and CDG — DL or AF?

    Thanks!

  11. I’ve connected thru CDG more times than I can remember. I always recommend a minimum 2 hour layover, mainly because CDG is so unpredictable. On one trip, you might get very lucky to deplane, clear customs, and make it to your connecting gate within 30 minutes. On the next trip, they might park your plane out in the cornfields, forcing you to walk down stairs, board a bus, take a 15 minute tour of the wonderful CDG grounds, leave the bus, walk up stairs, find that only 1 guy is staffing passport control, then the escalators/travelators are not working, and finally you reach your gate 90 minutes later. The way I see it, if you leave yourself 2 hours and everything goes smoothly, that gives you more time to have a small breakfast in the lounge, take a shower, whatever. If the worst case scenario happens, then you’ve got buffer time to make your flight.

    As far as the biz seats, if DL is flying the lie-flat configuration, it is a no-brainer vs. AF which has the lie-flat-at-angle on most of their planes. But if DL has the old BE lounge chair style seats, I would choose the AF lie-flat-at-angle. For me, the flatter I can get, the better for sleeping.

    One tip that I love to use on the return: I hate getting up in the middle of the night to catch a 6:30AM flight to CDG then connect to my final destination. What I do is fly up to CDG the night before – as long as the layover is less than 24 hours, it should price the same. For example, I take a late afternoon flight on a Thursday night which gets me into CDG in the early evening. I take the CDGVAL to the airport Hilton, drop my stuff off, then take the RER train into the city for a nice dinner. I catch the last RER to the airport which leaves between 10 and 11PM, have a good night’s sleep at the Hilton, wake up on Friday at a normal time, eat breakfast, then go to the airport to catch my 11AM flight home. I find that way is much less stressful and I’m well-rested to work or enjoy my flight home.

  12. I would add how annoying toll roads to access the airport are as in Orlando -MCO and others.
    Walking rental car lots that are on the other side of town almost.
    Airport design, there are plenty of old bad designs that make you walk around forever once you are inside a door.

  13. I live in Cincinnati and use CVG as a primary airport and I’m really surprised by this. I thought i saw some reports in the past few years ranking CVG as one of the worst major airports in the country…

    I guess it is “convenient” since it’s usually half empty (or more)

  14. I can’t think of any airport I think of as being really good all around. I will give Sacramento credit for always having clean and well-stocked bathrooms. Atlanta is always filthy, everywhere.

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