2020 was supposed to be an amazing year for the airline industry, especially in North America. And then coronavirus hit.
Fortunately for J.D. Power, who has been analyzing data since 1968 and North American airlines since 2005, their annual gathering of information to rank the best airlines in North America was finishing up by March. That’s when the travel industry, along with pretty much the rest of the world, stopped dead in its tracks. So they did manage to get their data.
Anyway, they changed the J.D. Power 2020 North American Airline Satisfaction Study around a bit, and instead of dividing the airlines into traditional carriers and low-cost carriers, they divvied them up into long haul and short-haul. This wound up putting high ranking but low-cost JetBlue up against traditional favorite (12 years running!) Alaska for the first time ever. And it showed in the rankings.
Here are the top five for each:
- Southwest Airlines (826 out of 1000)
- JetBlue Airways (823)
- Delta Air Lines (810)
- Alaska Airlines (797)
- WestJet (779)
- Southwest Airlines (839 out of 1000)
- JetBlue Airways (833)
- Alaska Airlines (828)
- Delta Air Lines (820)
- WestJet (787)
Click here to see the full rankings.
What’s the takeaway? For one, apparently a well-liked airline is a well-liked airline, whether it’s flying long- or short-haul flights. The top five for each group were nearly identical, save for Delta and Alaska switching the #3 and 4 spots.
The top five each scored better as short-haul airlines than as long-haul ones.
The airlines were appraised on the same aspects as previous years (aircraft, baggage, boarding, check-in, cost and fees, flight crew, in-flight services, and reservations) yet virtually all numbers were higher this year. (Here’s last year’s rankings, so you can compare)
As for next year? Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power probably said it best:
“Airline success in the post-COVID-19 era will hinge on a combination of building consumer confidence and operational flexibility with changing schedules and routes. Airlines have a tremendous reputation for safety. That will be even more critical as passengers look to airlines for detailed and specific information about what’s being done to keep them safe.”
I suspect that by the 2021 J.D. Power report, our priorities for what’s “best” will be vastly different from previous years. Will it be how they handled fees, waivers and cancelations especially in the early months of the pandemic? Or new boarding processes and other ways to make us feel safer? Will Delta’s bet on giving passengers what they want work for them?
I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary