Southwest, JetBlue top J.D. Power airline rankings

Dawn Gilbertson

You wouldn't know it from scrolling through the steady stream of passenger complaints on Twitter, but travelers' satisfaction with airlines continues to grow.

The latest evidence: the industry's customer satisfaction score increased for the seventh consecutive year in the 15th annual J.D. Power North America Airline Satisfaction Study released Wednesday.

The 10 airlines in the survey scored an average 773 out of 1,000, up from 762 in 2018. The score was below 700 as recently as 2013. Just two of the 10 airlines saw their scores fall from a year ago.

"This is probably the best time in modern history in which to fly,'' said Michael Taylor, head of travel intelligence at the research and consulting firm. 

Taylor credits, among other things, high-tech improvements in reservations and airport check-in, ticket value, relatively smooth operations and better in-flight amenities. The latter, though, could still use some improvement, he said. Today's travelers demand speedy Wi-Fi and power outlets, and those features are far from the standard on every plane.

More: Delta to test free Wi-Fi

The J.D. Power study, based on responses from 5,966 business and vacation travelers who flew on a major North American airline between March 2018 and March 2019, measures satisfaction in seven areas: cost and fees, in-flight services, aircraft, boarding/deplaning/baggage, flight crew, check-in and reservations.

The survey size shrank considerably from recent years, when it topped 11,000 travelers. Taylor said the change is not statistically significant.

Southwest, JetBlue, Alaska took the top three spots 

JetBlue and Southwest, longtime leaders in the study, tied for first in overall satisfaction in 2019, according to J.D. Power.

Each scored 817 out of 1,000. JetBlue's score was up five points from 2018, Southwest's fell a point.

Alaska was next, with a score of 801, up a hefty 26 points.

Rounding out the top five: Delta (788) and American (764).

American shows the most improvement

American gained the most points in customer satisfaction from a year ago, jumping from 729 to 764. The airline boosted its free in-flight entertainment in the past year.

The airlines and their scores:

No. 1 (tie): Southwest: 817, down from 818

No. 1 (tie): JetBlue: 817, up from 812

No. 3: Alaska: 801, up from 775

No. 4: Delta: 788, up from 767

No. 5: American: 764, up from 729

No. 6: WestJet: 758, up from 747

No. 7: United: 723, up from 708

No. 8: Air Canada, 729, down from 734

No. 9: Spirit Airlines, 711, Spirit wasn't included in 2018

No. 10: Frontier: 702, up from 693

Allegiant was included in 2018 but was excluded this year because there were not enough responses about the carrier.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Southwest, JetBlue top J.D. Power airline rankings