The lines are blurring between low-cost and traditional airline carriers, according to J.D. Power.
Alaska Airlines ranks highest among traditional carriers for a 12th consecutive year, while JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines tie for highest ranked among low-cost carriers, according to the J.D. Power 2019 North America Airline Satisfaction Study.
The recognition for JetBlue comes as the airline continues to make investments in its customer experience, most notably through the restyling of its Airbus A320 fleet. JetBlue’s newest Airbus A320 cabin experience officially took flight this spring.
Delta Air Lines ranks second and American Airlines ranks third among traditional carriers.
Among Canada-based airlines, Air Canada saw its customer satisfaction score decline 5 points from 2018. WestJet saw its score increase 11 points but remain below the low-cost carrier average.
Newer planes, better ticket value and improved customer touchpoints have driven overall satisfaction with airlines to its highest point in history, up 11 points (on a 1,000-point scale) from last year’s record-setting performance, continuing an eight-year trend of satisfaction improvement.
Airlines continue to deliver on the operational side of air travel, said Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power. New technology investments have dramatically improved the reservation and check-in process.
“Fleets are newer and travelers generally feel that they are getting great value for their money,” states Taylor. “These improvements have been most profound in the traditional carrier segment, where customer satisfaction has climbed considerably.”
While low-cost carriers have historically had the highest levels of customer satisfaction in the study, due to a strong sense of value among customers, that line is starting to blur as traditional carriers improve their services and operations, Taylor added.
“The one area where both traditional and low-cost carriers can still improve, however, is in in-flight services,” Taylor states. “It continues to be the lowest-ranked factor in the study, as many airlines still struggle with in-flight entertainment, connectivity, in-seat power and food service.”
The low-cost segment—while still tracking higher overall satisfaction than the traditional carrier segment—declined 6 points from 2018, thus driving a segment convergence in satisfaction.
The North America Airline Satisfaction Study, now in its 15th year, measures passenger satisfaction with airline carriers in North America based on performance in seven factors (in order of importance): cost and fees; in-flight services; aircraft; boarding/deplaning/baggage; flight crew; check-in; and reservation.
The study measures passenger satisfaction among both business and leisure travelers and is based on responses from 5,966 passengers who flew on a major North American airline between March 2018 and March 2019. The study was fielded from April 2018 through March 2019.