Analytics firm J.D. Power revealed its annual rankings for the best and worst airlines for customer satisfaction.
JetBlue Airways took the top spot for its Mint business class and Even More Space seats.
Southwest Airlines has the best economy product, while American Airlines ranked low in all categories.
A new study says JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines are the best carriers for customer satisfaction.
Analytics firm J.D. Power, which has tracked airline performance since 1993, published its annual North America Airline Passenger Satisfaction Study in May, revealing how airlines rank based on passenger feedback.
The company surveyed 7,004 people from March 2021 to March 2022 and analyzed carriers based on eight metrics: aircraft, baggage, boarding, check-in, cost and fees, flight crew, inflight services, and reservation.
Unlike previous years, J.D. Power took the study a step further and broke down the data by fare class, including first/business, premium economy, and economy/basic economy, to better gauge passenger expectations.
"We did it to align with the way that consumers purchase tickets," J.D. Power travel intelligence lead Michael Taylor told Forbes. "Each seat class comes with certain expectations about service and price and J.D. Power wanted to gather insights on what's important to passengers in each seat class."
The results show that JetBlue Airways is the top carrier. The company took first for both its Mint business class product and premium economy, counting its extra legroom seats as a premium cabin. Bringing up the rear for first/business is American Airlines, while Air Canada took last for premium economy.
With 11 carriers ranked for the economy/basic economy category, Southwest Airlines beat out JetBlue for the top title. Southwest recently announced a $2 billion investment in the customer experience, including adding in-seat power to its planes.
Ultra-low-cost carrier Allegiant Air scored high for its economy product, coming in fourth behind Southwest, JetBlue, and Delta. The airline beat out mainline carriers like Alaska and United.
On the tail end of the economy list is Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet, Frontier Airlines, and American. Spirit Airlines ranked eight out of 11, but its slim seats and a la carte business model still beat out legacy carrier American.
While the study is good news for JetBlue and Southwest, which were both named the worst US airlines by The Wall Street Journal and WalletHub, respectively, J.D. Power says overall customer satisfaction is over 20 points lower than last year.
According to Taylor, the change can be attributed to COVID-19 when passenger satisfaction rose due to pandemic-era policies that made travel easier, like no middle seats and empty airports. However, he said in a press release "that business model was simply not sustainable."
Nevertheless, he said the data is "not really bad news" because people are willing to face the frustration and challenges imposed by surging demand if it means taking a vacation, and the decline indicates travel is returning to pre-pandemic levels, which is good for airlines.
"The reasons why last year satisfaction was up was for all the wrong reasons," Taylor told Business Travel News. "This year, [the score] is down for the right reasons."
According to the study, the main areas of dissatisfaction were the inflight food and beverage service and airfare. J.D. Power found that the suspension of alcohol in premium classes caused satisfaction to decrease; however, economy cabins were happy with their offerings, with satisfaction actually increasing this year.
Rising ticket costs proved to be a driving factor in the decreasing satisfaction scores this year as well, the data showed. Through March 2022, J.D. Power said airfare rose 20%, causing customer satisfaction in costs and fees to fall in every cabin.
Despite the decrease, Taylor said in the press release that "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.'"
Here are the airlines with the best and worst customer satisfaction.
Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines
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