Efforts to turn around the trend of a universally poor passenger experience at America's airports appears to be paying off, with a recent J.D. Power survey proclaiming passenger satisfaction at an all-time high across the range of airports in the survey.

As strain has been put on the system of airports, the aging infrastructure has struggled to cope with capacity demands. Coupled with the pressures of increased security measures and financial losses leading to staff cuts, passengers have been faced with a travel experience of long lines and delays in crowded spaces, with poor customer service.

Compared with airports elsewhere in the world, American airports were falling far short of the mark. However, faced with these challenges, airports have been diligently tackling the issues through modernization of buildings and infrastructure, and focusing on customer satisfaction through all manner of creative ways.

Based on a maximum score of 1,000 points, the survey sampled customers in airports falling under three categories: mega, large and medium.

The highest-ranked airport in the survey was California's Sacramento International, which is in the medium category, and it earned a score of 810. It highlighted the work the airport had done to improve its security check and terminal facilities.

"Over the last year, TSA Sacramento has worked hard to refocus on our core security mission and improve communication, both with our public and private stakeholders and within our organization," said Sid Hannah, federal security director for Sacramento International Airport.

In the mega airport category, Orlando International came out on top with a score of 778, followed by Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County (767) and Las Vegas McCarran (765). This is perhaps slightly surprising, coming at a time when Orlando is in the middle of a $3.5 billion construction project. Nevertheless, Frank Kruppenbacher, Chairman of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, said: "The entire airport community can take great pride in knowing that our efforts are appreciated by the customers we serve and strive to impress."

The opposite end of the rankings in all categories indicate some of the airports still struggling with ongoing issues of capacity and redevelopment. Long-time bottleneck New York LaGuardia received the lowest score, pending its future rebuild to tackle cramped, inefficient terminals. Meanwhile, both Los Angeles International and Newark Liberty International fared only marginally better as they also undergo work to cope with customer dissatisfaction and a lack of capacity.

This is the 12th annual study by global consumer insights organisation J.D. Power. Its survey also uncovered some of the unusual ways in which airports have improved customer experience. These include the use of therapy dogs at Phoenix Sky Harbor to calm nervous flyers, and a herd of 30 stress-relieving ponies roaming the gates and looking for customers to interact with at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport.

Almost 35,000 passengers were questioned in the survey and asked to rate airports on aspects of terminal facilities; airport accessibility; security check; baggage claim; check-in/baggage check; food, beverage and retail.