Airline Customer Satisfaction Is Actually Improving, Believe It or Not

May 30, 2018

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Social media might be teeming with passengers documenting horrible experiences with US airlines, but flyers actually say they have never been happier with airlines’ performances. Airline passengers in North America are reporting “record-high customer satisfaction,” according to a study released Wednesday by JD Power.

Despite several recent high-profile customer service debacles, and shrinking legroom, airlines’ investments in newer planes, improved overhead storage availability and cheaper fares all contributed to flyers in the US and Canada reporting the highest level of happiness with airlines since JD Power began the survey 14 years ago.

Passengers also reported better experiences boarding and deplaning aircraft and improved experience with booking reservations and checking in. Overall, customer satisfaction with North American carriers climbed six points in 2017, up to the all-time high score of 762 (on a 1,000-point scale). The higher happiness quotient continues a seven-year trend of passengers reporting customer service improvements on both traditional and low-cost carriers.

“With a single exception, airlines in North America show consistent improvements across all the factors, from booking a ticket to handling luggage,” Michael Taylor, travel practice lead at J.D. Power, said in a statement. “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.”

That one category in which airlines faltered was in-flight services — especially Wi-Fi and entertainment systems. The study notes that it’s expensive for airlines to keep up with the latest Wi-Fi technology, which can be frustrating for customers.

“The exception is in the in-flight services factor, which includes food, beverage and entertainment systems,” Taylor said. “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.”

Alaska Airlines ranked highest in the study among traditional airlines (with an overall score of 775). Alaska also ranked No. 1 on TPG‘s list of best airlines this year for similar reasons, including airfare, on-time arrivals, baggage handling, customer satisfaction and its best-in-the-industry frequent flyer program.

In the low-cost bracket, Southwest took the top spot at a score of 818, with Allegiant and Air Canada scoring an honorable mention for the biggest improvement in customer satisfaction — increasing 58 and 25 points respectively.

The report, called the North America Airline Satisfaction Study, is based on JD Power’s survey of 11,508 business and leisure travelers who flew on a major North American airline between March 2017 and March 2018.

Featured image by Hero Images via Getty Images.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.