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Detroit Metro lands low in survey

Detroit Metropolitan-Wayne County Airport has scored poorly in yet another traveler satisfaction survey. Exactly how poorly, though, J.D. Power & Associates won't say.

The finding that Metro is inconvenient and unpleasant to use doesn't surprise Brian Schwartz, a spokesman for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, which has for years tried to woo travelers to Toledo Express Airport by citing its coziness and convenience.

J.D. Power's rankings of the United States' 29 biggest airports for customer satisfaction gave Detroit Metro a below average score among the 16 airports that handle 30 million or more passengers a year.

The rankings are based on surveys of more than 6,500 subscribers to the Official Airline Pocket Flight Guide, who were asked to rate a variety of services and features at the major airport closest to their homes, plus two others they use frequently.

While the firm ranked the above-average airports individually by score, it listed below-average airports alphabetically and did not show their scores in its results. Orlando's airport finished first among the largest airports, while Tampa's led the rankings for “medium” airports that handle between 15 and 29.9 million annual passengers.

Detroit's poor showing placed it in the doghouse with Chicago's O'Hare International, Los Angeles and San Francisco international airports, and virtually every major airport on the East Coast except for Baltimore-Washington International and Reagan-Washington National.

Metro scored low for employee courtesy and helpfulness as well as cleanliness in terminals, said Mike Taylor, the company's director of traveler services. That means Metro can't rely on the new $1.2 million midfield passenger terminal, scheduled to open late next year, to solve all its problems, Mr. Taylor said.

In a 1997 survey of 90,000 air travelers, Los Angeles-based Plog Associates rated Detroit Metro worst among the country's 36 biggest airports for overall quality, including bottom ratings for baggage handling, gate convenience, available ground transportation, and clarity of signage. A year ago, a Conde Nast Traveler magazine reader's survey trashed Metro too.

That J.D. Power - perhaps best known for its annual new-car rankings - has added its voice to those previous pans may not boost Toledo Express that much, Mr. Schwartz said.

Travelers already know using the Detroit airport is a hassle, he said. But without price-competitive flights at Toledo Express - something unavailable before AirTran Airways began service to the local airport last month - convenience lost to cost.

“We now have a combination of fares and convenience,” Mr. Schwartz said. “People won't go out of their way for convenience if the cost is unreasonable, and they won't go out of their way for low cost if something is too inconvenient.”

Travel through Toledo Express jumped by 39 per cent last month compared with October, 1999, as passengers flocked to AirTran and to other airlines that lowered their fares to compete with the discount carrier after its Toledo flights began Oct. 3.

But with nearly 60,000 passengers representing a busy month for Toledo Express, it is nowhere close to appearing in a big-airport satisfaction survey.

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