Airports are crowded once again, and flights are packed, showing just how willing people are to travel. On the other hand, flight cancellations are common and ticket prices are rising.
As a result, U.S. airplane passenger satisfaction levels are down across the board, according to a new study from consumer research company J.D. Power.
“With [passenger] volumes surging and some remnants of pandemic-era constraints still in place, passenger satisfaction is in decline — but that’s not really bad news,” Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power, said in a statement. “If airlines can find ways to manage these growing volumes while making some small adjustments to help passengers feel more valued, they should be able to manage this return to ‘normal.’”
The Study’s Findings
J.D. Power surveyed 7,004 passengers who flew on a major North American airline between March 2021 and March 2022 for its North America Airline Satisfaction Study. The study measures passenger satisfaction with airline carriers in North America based on numerous key factors: aircraft, baggage, boarding, check-in, cost and fees, flight crew, in-flight services, and reservation.
Last year’s North American Airline Satisfaction Study results found that U.S. travelers reaped unexpected benefits from flying during COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions, including fewer passengers on flights and increased ticket flexibility.
“Customer satisfaction with North American airlines climbed to unprecedented highs for all of the wrong reasons during the past two years,” Taylor said. “Fewer passengers meant more space on airplanes, less waiting in line, and more attention from flight attendants, but that business model was simply not sustainable.”
Given those changing circumstances, and that some pandemic-related restrictions are still in place, it’s not surprising to learn that J.D. Power’s research found that the suspension of alcohol service in premium class was responsible for a sharp decline in passenger satisfaction. Food and beverage satisfaction scores also fell 38 points among passengers in the premium economy segment.
The biggest factor contributing to passengers’ declining satisfaction, however, is rising airfare.
The average ticket is now 20 percent higher than last year due to increasing fuel costs and rising demand. Indeed, overall satisfaction with cost and fees fell 66 points among those flying premium economy, 33 points among passengers flying economy/basic economy segment, and 21 points among passengers flying first class/business, according to the study.
The situation may even worsen.
“We’re going to start talking about how expensive it is to fly. The biggest factor in satisfaction is whether people feel they’re getting value for their money,” Taylor said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “That’s harder to do in inflationary times and when airlines are raising ticket prices.”
About now, you may be wondering how individual airlines fared in the survey. Fortunately, J.D. Power breaks those rankings out as well.
JetBlue Airways scored highest in customer satisfaction among passengers flying first/business, with an overall score of 878 points. Alaska Airlines ranked second with a score of 876 points, followed by Delta Air Lines with 862 points.
Interestingly, JetBlue also ranked highest in customer satisfaction among passengers flying premium economy, with 851 points. Delta ranked second with 837 points while Alaska ranked third with 825 points.
Finally, Southwest Airlines ranked highest in customer satisfaction among passengers flying economy/basic economy, with 849 points. JetBlue ranked second with 828 points, and Delta was third with 813 points.
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