For all the public and online ranting about the deterioration of airline travel, a new survey from J.D. Power and Associates finds that air travelers have never been happier – not in the 15 years of its annual poll, at least.
That may seem counterintuitive to travelers who face ever-longer lines at the airport and ever-smaller legroom and lavatories on passenger aircraft these days – not to mention schedule uncertainties caused by more violent weather, repeated computer outages, and sudden industry-wide interruptions like the grounding of the 737 MAX this year.
But J.D. Power said this week that among the 5,966 air travelers that it surveyed from April 2018 through March of this year, overall satisfaction with major North American airlines rose 11 points on its 1,000-point scale to a score of 773 – a record high, and the eighth straight year of improving scores. Much of the credit goes to improved technology (like popular airline apps), new planes, better food and inflight entertainment improvements.
The study divides airlines into two segments: traditional carriers (United, American, Delta, Alaska and Air Canada), and low-cost airlines (Southwest, JetBlue, Spirit, Frontier and Canada’s WestJet) – although the company concedes that the line between the two groups “is starting to blur.”
According to J.D. Power, the satisfaction score for the traditional carriers increased by 22 points this year over 2018, while the low-cost carriers’ score dropped by six points (although they still outscored the traditional airlines as a group).
To celebrate its 12th consecutive year as the number one-ranked airline in the JD Power survey, Alaska Airlines is offering $12 Premium Class upgrades through 11:59 p.m. tonight (May 29) in select markets for travel from August 20 through November 13. SFO markets include Paine Field (Everett, Washington), Las Vegas, LAX, Palm Springs, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Diego and Seattle. San Jose routes include Burbank, Dallas (Love Field), Paine Field, LAX, Reno, San Diego and Orange County. See the details here.
What’s fueling the higher scores? “New technology investments have dramatically improved the reservation and check-in process,” said Michael Taylor, the Travel Intelligence Lead at J.D. Power. “Fleets are newer and travelers generally feel that they are getting great value for their money. These improvements have been most profound in the traditional carrier segment.”
The one fly in the ointment, however, is the in-flight experience. “The one area where both traditional and low-cost carriers can still improve, however, is in in-flight services,” Taylor observed. “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 in-flight amenities that elicit the highest satisfaction levels among passengers are fresh food, seatback games and seatback live TV, J.D. Power found.
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In the Bay Area, two of our largest traditional carriers, Alaska Airlines and United led and trailed the pack. Leading the pack among traditional airlines was Alaska – for the 12th consecutive year – with a satisfaction score of 801. Delta ranked second at 788, followed by American (764), Air Canada (729) and United (723).
All of those airlines posted higher satisfaction scores this year than last; in 2018, Alaska scored 775, Delta 767, Air Canada 734, American 729 and United 708.
In the low-cost carrier category, Southwest (also big in the Bay Area) and JetBlue tied for the number one spot this year with scores of 817, followed by WestJet (758), Spirit (711) and Frontier (702).
The J.D. Power survey asks respondents about the quality of their experience in seven areas: costs and fees, in-flight service, aircraft, boarding/deplaning/baggage, flight crew, check-in, and reservations.
Has air travel really improved for you over the least year or so? Or not? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.
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Chris McGinnis is the founder of TravelSkills.com. The author is solely responsible for the content above, and it is used here by permission. You can reach Chris at [email protected] or on Twitter @cjmcginnis.
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