"Road warriors" are those who spend a lot of time in our nation’s airports, and asking them to rate their favorites necessarily involves a fair amount of subjectivity. But in listening to these seasoned travelers, I’ve found that the airports they consistently rank the highest are the ones that go out of their way to cater to business travelers.
My company, National Car Rental, did a recent survey on this topic with Emerald Exchange -- a 300-member community of road warriors who frequently engage with us to create new travel programs and services. The community's members made it clear that they want efficient airports providing ample services to help travelers optimize the time they spend at terminals.
During my own travels around the country, I have found a number of airports that strive to cater to business travelers in this way, while others still have work to do. Here are the Emerald Exchange survey results on what it takes to be a preferred airport for business travelers:
Favorite U.S. airports
More airports today are catering to the frequent traveler by offering interesting places to eat, work, shop or just relax. The Emerald Exchange ranked its members' top airport preferences and,among these, three -- the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and Denver International Airport --received top billing.
The road warriors surveyed favored facilities that they said enable them to be productive (offering charging stations and member lounges) and also include a range of amenities to keep them entertained (plentiful dining options and shopping experiences.
Respondents also cited “ease of use” as important and included such factors here as access by car, public transportation and rental cars. The Dallas-Fort Worth airport was a favorite here, for its fitness walking trail, yoga studio and terminals offering ease of arrival and departure.
Airport wish list
The Emerald Exchange survey also revealed a wish list from business travelers for the ideal airport experience. Improved waiting areas were a popular choice -- ones that include comfortable seating and private work areas. Also, an “adults-only” waiting area and quiet zones were mentioned.
For additional amenities, choices included healthy food and drink options, an airport hotel, relaxation options (spas) and more workout-facility options.
I definitely agree with requests for workout facilities, especially those that come complete with gyms and locker rooms like those offered at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, and Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
Related: Is This the Airport of the Future?
The most popular items for the wish list described services offering maximum efficiency, such as free wi-fi; rental car facilities within walking distance; easier connections between terminals and gates; and check-in options before airport arrival. One interesting request was an in-terminal shipping service so travellers could avoid having to take merchandise on board the plane.
The survey further revealed that 75 percent of members surveyed said they work in the terminal prior to their departure at the airport. As a result, business travelers appreciate access to airport services and amenities that save them time and increases productivity.
Many travelers revealed that they take advantage of the time prior to departure to make phone calls (68 percent); read (57 percent); eat at a restaurant (31 percent) and shop at airport stores (15 percent). Many large airports also provide airport lounges not tied to a membership.
These lounges cater to business travelers by providing more work space, better connectivity and chef-inspired cuisine -- a benefit especially appreciated by travelers experiencing a layover and work-related deadline. Airports that are taking steps to provide amenities to improve efficiency will continue to pull ahead as favorites.
Overall, the survey made clear, not all airports are created equal. But I can say from personal experience that many have improved passenger services in recent years, and that that has occurred largely because travelers have demanded it.
We'd like to hear your comments on U.S. airports and any tips you have for navigating them efficiently