JD Power: Airline satisfaction takes a hit due to higher prices

For the second consecutive year, consumer satisfaction with North American airlines has declined, according to J.D. Power. 

Airlines scored a ranking of 791 on the 1,000-point scale that J.D. Power uses in its annual North American Airline Satisfaction Study, down seven points from last year and down 29 points from 2021. 

Despite 2022 being a year in which cancellations surged, it was price that drove the decline, the survey showed. 

“If yield management were the only metric airlines needed to be successful in the long term, this would be a banner year for the industry because they are operating at peak economic efficiency,” J.D. Power travel intelligence leader Michael Taylor said in a prepared comment. “From the customer perspective, however, that means planes are crowded, tickets are expensive and flight availability is constrained. While these drawbacks have not yet put a dent in leisure travel demand, if this trend continues, travelers will reach a breaking point and some airline brands may be damaged.”

The study measured customer satisfaction with airlines based on performance in eight factors: aircraft, baggage, boarding, check-in, costs and fees, flight crew, in-flight services, and reservations. It was fielded between March 2022 and March 2023 and is based on responses from 7,774 individuals who had flown within a month of when they were surveyed.

Rankings were compiled in three segments, economy, first class and premium economy. 

Customer satisfaction with cost and fees took the largest drop, declining by 17 points. The biggest impact was felt by budget flyers, where the satisfaction level with costs dropped 19 points. 

First-class passengers bucked the overall trend of the survey. Their satisfaction scores increased nine points, driven to a significant degree by the post-pandemic resumption by airlines of full food and beverage service, J.D. Power said. 

For economy cabins, the study included customers’ experiences with American, Delta, United, Southwest, Alaska, JetBlue, Allegiant, Spirit, Frontier, Air Canada and WestJet. Southwest maintained its position from 2022 atop the segment with a ranking of 827, followed by Delta (801) and JetBlue (800). Frontier (705), Spirit (727) and American (764) brought up the rear.

In the first/business class and premium economy segments, J.D. Power surveyed passengers about American, Delta, United, Alaska, JetBlue and Air Canada. JetBlue held its grip at the top from 2022 with a satisfaction score of 893, followed by Delta with a score of 865. American, with a score of 826, repeated its last place position from 2022. Air Canada (830) was second worst.

In the premium economy segment, Delta moved past JetBlue to the top spot, obtaining a satisfaction ranking of 848 on the 1,000-point scale. JetBlue (840) slipped to second. In last was United with a score of 784. Air Canada was second worst with a score of 797.

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