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Customer service is a vital part of the airline industry. And, as frequent travelers, we all know that there are some airlines that excel at customer service, and there are others that lag far, far behind to the point where many would avoid boarding their planes altogether. So it’s no surprise that there are plenty of surveys that showcase what people think about airlines — which are the best for customer service on Twitter and much more.

According to the annual J.D. Power customer service satisfaction survey of North American carriers, customer satisfaction is, in general, better than in previous years. J.D. Power measures its passenger satisfaction based on seven factors, in order of importance: cost and fees, in-flight services, boarding/deplaning/baggage, flight crew, aircraft, check-in and reservation. The study is based on responses from 10,348 business and leisure passengers who flew on a major North American airline between March 2015 and March 2016.

Here are the best airlines for customer service in 2016:

Alaska was the best traditional carrier for customer satisfaction for the ninth consecutive year.

Traditional Carrier Ranking (based on a 1,000-point scale)

1. Alaska Airlines (751) — Highest in the traditional carrier segment for the ninth consecutive year.
2. Delta Air Lines (725) — Has improved in all seven factors.
Segment Average: 703
3. American Airlines (693)
4. Air Canada (681)
5. United Airlines (675)

Low-Cost Carrier Ranking (based on a 1,000-point scale)

1. JetBlue Airways (790) — Highest in low-cost segment for 11th consecutive year; although declined in six of the seven factors year over year.
2. Southwest Airlines (789) — Has improved in all seven factors year over year.
Segment Average: 775
3. WestJet (723)
4. Frontier Airlines (662)

The good news is that customer service in the airline industry has reached a 10-year high — it increased 9 points to 726. In addition, travelers are now more tolerant of costs and fees, which is most likely the result of lower airfares. Airlines have also continued to improve their in-flight entertainment options, which has caused the in-flight services segment to increase dramatically — however, it’s the lowest-scoring factor. The major change this year’s survey saw was that business travelers were generally more satisfied than leisure travelers for the first time in the study’s history.

J.D. Power also released its 2016 report on the status of airline loyalty and rewards programs. The study is based on six factors, in order of importance: ease of redeeming points/miles, reward program terms, account maintenance/management, ease of earning points/miles, variety of benefits available and customer service. The report was based on 3,123 responses and rewards program members and was fielded in 2016.

Southwest ranked second in 2016’s best loyalty/rewards program.

Overall Customer Satisfaction Index Ranking for Airline Loyalty/Rewards Program (based on a 1,000-point scale)

1. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan (757) — Highest in overall member satisfaction for a third consecutive year.
2. Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards (754)
3. JetBlue Airlines TrueBlue (743)
Report Average: 706
4. Delta Air Lines SkyMiles (690)
5. American Airlines AAdvantage (688)
6. United Airlines MileagePlus (673)

According to the report, the factor that separates the highest-performing from the lowest-performing is ease of redeeming points/miles and the reward program terms. The study noted that rewards programs are changing and noted the trend of moving rewards programs to revenue-based instead of mileage-based.

As North American airlines continue to improve their product — by bringing back complimentary snacks to economy on United and American, for example — it’s possible that airline customer service satisfaction ratings will continue to rise. How the ever-changing rewards program scene will evolve over the next year has yet to be determined.

What do you think of J.D. Powers rankings for 2016? Do you agree with the resuts?

H/T: USA Today

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