Hopkins Ranked Worst Mid-Sized Airport in America

click to enlarge Rendering of Hopkins' new earthwormy facade. - ClevelandAirport.com
Rendering of Hopkins' new earthwormy facade.

In a study published Wednesday by JD Power & Associates, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport was ranked last among North American medium-sized airports. That's right, Clevelanders: Of the 33 surveyed airports in the United States and Canada that emplane 1.9 to 7 million passengers per year, Hopkins ranked 33rd.

The survey measured travelers' satisfaction in seven categories: accessibility, security, baggage check, baggage claim, terminal facilities (signage, restrooms), retail, and customs (as applicable). The survey found — surprise, surprise — that efficient processing of travelers was key. Satisfaction dropped considerably when check-in and security lines took longer than five and 10 minutes, respectively.

For comparison, on that score: On a recent early Friday morning, your Scene correspondent departed from Hopkins for a weekend wedding and waited nearly one hour in the security line. I know it was nearly one hour because I was wearing a watch, and was checking it. My wife was also holding a yellow slip of paper, which we had been presented upon entry and instructed to return to TSA personnel so they could monitor (but by no means medicate) the line's ferocious growth. Moreover, a disgruntled and untidy gentleman behind us complained about the line at a consistent, almost metronomic, rate of two times per minute. He complained either 96 or 98 times.

Construction, of course, is largely to blame. CLE — the airport, not the euphemism — is undergoing a $20 million fast-track facelift to be completed in time for the RNC. It's a facelift that the Cleveland Planning Commission endorsed sans trumpets last year. The design was thought to be not "particularly great."

"It will be clean and functional," said local architect / design review panelist Jack Bialosky at the time. "That's the best thing I can say about it."

When Cleveland City Council's Transportation Committee visited Hopkins last month to observe progress on the construction, they were reportedly impressed with the progress, but also bummed about the hassles for residents and visitors, especially during the Holiday season. 

"You will have long lines," Airport planner Ren Camacho told the Council envoy. "That's the best we can do. You will have long lines." 

Still, Hopkins reported a slight uptick in passenger numbers in August as compared to last year (a terrible year, recall, due to the United dehubbing), even as newer, smaller airlines cut flights.

"We have officially rebounded from the United dehubbing," Cleveland's Director of Port Control Ricky Smith, the city's (former) highest paid public official, said at the time. Thereafter, he ditched for Maryland. Airport media peeps haven't released passenger numbers since August, into which you can read whatever you like.

Since that time, though, Hopkins has been in the news for other, even less savory, reasons. The revelation from whistle blower Abdul-Malik Ali that Hopkins had been chronically understaffed during winter months led Scene stringer Dan McGraw to speculate that the airport was simply running out of money

Which, if true, means airport officials will be working doubly hard to negotiate down the colossal $735,000 fine assessed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), related to runway conditions (as a result of the staffing issues). It's another ignoble distinction for CLE, Going Places. The FAA fine is the largest penalty awarded to any airport in 19 years.

At this point, JD Power is just rubbing salt in the open, festering wounds. 

About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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