Last updated: 01:00 AM ET, Mon November 21 2016

TravelPulse 100 Best US Airports: Why Portland, Phoenix and Nashville Are Up-and-Comers

Airlines & Airports Rich Thomaselli November 21, 2016

TravelPulse 100 Best US Airports: Why Portland, Phoenix and Nashville Are Up-and-Comers

Surprises will always emerge in surveys, no matter what the topic. One of the results of the TravelPulse survey of America’s best and worst airports was how high three facilities, in particular, finished in the rankings:

* Portland, Ore. International was 14th overall

* Phoenix Sky Harbor was 17th

* And Nashville was 36th out of 115.

Portland and Phoenix finished ahead of such major airports as Los Angeles International, Dallas-Fort Worth, Boston-Logan, Fort Lauderdale and Washington-Reagan, while Nashville placed in front of John F. Kennedy International, Newark-Liberty, Raleigh-Durham and Dallas-Love, among others.

Portland, in fact, was named America’s best airport four years running by Travel + Leisure in its annual poll.

PHOTO courtesy Portland International Airport

And all three of the up-and-coming airlines share similar positives – easy to get to, easy to traverse the airport, great food and beverage options, terrific shopping and amenities, and more.

“One of the reasons I love the Portland airport is how easy it is to access it whether you travel by car or public transit. The train departs from downtown and takes you directly to the airport,” said one of the respondents to the TravelPulse survey. “You walk out and you're in baggage claim. It's awesome. Picking someone up from PDX has never been a pain or inconvenience.”

“The Portland airport always feels fresh and clean and the shopping can't be beat,” said another.

Now, granted, all three airports are the largest by passenger volume in their respective state and pretty much the only game in town. That is, their metropolitan areas don’t support multiple airports like New York, Washington, South Florida, Los Angeles and more.

Still, Phoenix flew 21.3 million passengers last year, a five percent gain over 2014; Portland flew 8.3 million, a six percent increase over 2014; and Nashville emplaned 5.7 million passengers, also a six percent gain.

PHOTO courtesy Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

All three have achieved, and are achieving, the formula needed to be held in such high regard, according to aviation consultant Robert Mann of R.W. Mann & Co.

“A comprehensive mix of passenger service facilities meeting the needs of all passenger types and preferences, from self-service to high-touch,” Mann said when asked what it takes for airports to be considered one of the best.

“I like Phoenix Sky Harbor & San Jose International; they are easy to navigate,” said one of TravelPulse’s survey takers.

As for Nashville, an already-good airport is about to get a $1 billion makeover “designed to help the airport cope with record increases in passenger traffic. The redevelopment covers the expansion of concourses and lobby areas, the addition of new gates, construction of a new International Arrivals Building, and enhancements to security screening lanes. A new parking garage with 2,000 spaces will also be built.

The conceptual plan will be phased in over the next five to seven years, and funding will come from bonds, federal and state aviation grants, Passenger Facility Charges and other airport funds.”