J.D. Power 2018 Report Is In: The Best Airlines In North America

The responses of the annual J.D. Power 2018 North America Airline Satisfaction StudySM have been tabulated and analyzed and the top U.S. airlines have been announced. Alaska Airlines won first place for traditional carriers for, hello, the 11th consecutive year (!!!), and Southwest was named best of all the low-cost airlines for the 2nd year in a row (it upsurped the title from JetBlue in 2016). Here are the rankings:

Traditional carriers

1. Alaska Airlines (775 points on a 1,000-point scale)
2. Delta Air Lines (767 points)
3. Air Canada (734 points)
4. American Airlines (729 points)
5. United Airlines (708 points)

Low-cost carriers

1. Southwest Airlines (818 points on a 1,000-point scale)
2. JetBlue (812 points)
3. WestJet (747 points)
4. Allegiant (725 points)
5. Frontier Airlines (693 points)

The carriers that showed the most improvement in overall customer satisfaction from last year were Allegiant (they increases 58 points to 725), and Air Canada (who increased 25 points to 734). Notably absent from the ratings was Spirit Airlines, which J.D. Power said didn’t have a broad enough U.S. footprint to be included.

The survey, which is now in its 14th year, measures passenger satisfaction with airline carriers in North America based on performance in seven factors (in order of importance): cost & 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 11,508 passengers who flew on a major North American airline between March 2017 and March 2018.

“With a single exception, airlines in North America show consistent improvements across all the factors, from booking a ticket to handling luggage,” said Michael Taylor, Travel Practice Lead at J.D. Power. “Operationally, it’s never been a better time to fly. Passengers perceive greater value in ticket prices, checking in has never been easier, passengers are more satisfied with the actual aircraft and airlines have improved their baggage-handling performance.

“The exception is in the in-flight services factor, which includes food, beverage and entertainment systems,” Taylor added. “Today’s passengers expect trouble-free connectivity for personal devices and airlines are challenged to keep pace with the technology that can achieve that goal. This is important because passengers are far more likely to have a positive experience with an airline if they are entertained during their flight.”

Some interesting developments for the 2018 survey included:

  • Customer satisfaction shows a record high: Consumers’ satisfaction with airlines in 2018 increases by 6 points (to 762 out of 1000), which marks 7 years in a row of  performance increases of both traditional and low-cost carriers.
  • Newer, bigger, better: Annual improvement in overall customer satisfaction is driven by increased satisfaction with the aircraft (+15 points); a better experience with boarding/deplaning/baggage (+10) and reservation (+11); and satisfaction with costs & fees (+8). Availability of overhead storage seems to be the most important aspect of consumer perception.
  • Electronic devices: The airlines are still struggling to meet customer expectations for device connectivity. In fact, in-flight services scored lower than any other factor in the study. Compared with aircraft offering seatback screens, passengers using their own mobile devices to access in-flight services were less satisfied with the variety of in-flight entertainment available and availability of in-flight services. Keeping pace with improvements in Wi-Fi technology is apparently difficult and expensive for the airlines.

Click here to see J.D. Power’s full press release.

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