J.D. Power: Flyers are less satisfied with airlines; JetBlue, Southwest earn top scores

May 11, 2022

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.

Passenger satisfaction with air travel is waning amid soaring airfares and lingering pandemic service changes.

That’s according to the J.D. Power 2022 North America Airline Satisfaction Study, which found stress and aggravation are returning along with passengers amid a broader rebound in air travel. The decline in 2022’s satisfaction rating follows two consecutive years of record-high scores in the J.D. Power report.

“Customer satisfaction with North American airlines climbed to unprecedented highs for all of the wrong reasons during the past two years,” Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power, said in a Wednesday statement highlighting the study’s findings. “Fewer passengers meant more space on airplanes, less waiting in line and more attention from flight attendants. But that business model was simply not sustainable.”

Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter

Indeed, passenger numbers plummeted during the pandemic, dropping to historic lows in 2020. But a slow rebound began to take hold in 2021, and it’s hit full stride in 2022. Now, travelers face the prospect of full flights and scarce hotel options during what’s shaping up to be a “sold-out summer.”

For J.D. Power’s 2022 study, travelers said they were unhappy with airfares that have risen astronomically as passengers have returned faster than airlines have been able to ramp up operations following cutbacks made during the pandemic. And passengers in first and business class seem particularly unhappy with reduced food and beverage service. “Premium passengers want their free drinks,” J.D. Power noted.

“Now, with volumes surging and some remnants of pandemic-era constraints still in place, passenger satisfaction is in decline,” Taylor added. Still,  he said “that’s not really bad news” for airlines if they can “find ways to manage these growing volumes while making some small adjustments to help passengers feel more valued.”

Sold-out summer: 31 travel tips to keep your trip on track and on budget

Overall, the industry’s satisfaction score came in at an average of 798 on a 1,000-point scale, a 21-point drop from J.D. Power’s record-high score of 819 in 2021.

J.D. Power also shook up the airline ratings that had become a staple of its satisfaction studies over the years. In previous years, J.D. Power rated airlines either in one overall list or by breakdowns that tended to compare full-service and budget carriers in their own categories.

But J.D. Power’s 2022 study instead ranks airlines by three service types: first/business class, premium economy and economy/basic economy. The study is based on responses from 7,004 passengers who flew on a major North American airline within the U.S. and Canada during a 12-month window through March 2022.

Wallet-buster: Why are airfare and hotel rooms so expensive right now?

JetBlue took the top spot in both the first/business and premium economy ratings. That comes despite the fact that JetBlue’s “Mint” business-class seat is available only on select U.S. routes and that it does not offer a formal “premium economy” seat. But J.D. Power lumped JetBlue’s “Even More Space” seats that feature up 7 extra inches of legroom into its premium economy category. JetBlue’s strong showing comes during an otherwise eventful year for JetBlue. The carrier made an offer, since spurned,  to acquire budget rival Spirit Airlines and has found itself struggling through a springtime bout of delays and cancellations.

Elsewhere in the 2022 J.D. Power study, Southwest finished No. 1 in the “economy/basic economy” category, outpacing No. 2 JetBlue and No. 3 Delta.

Last year, J.D. Power rated the airlines in a single category – with Delta finishing first ahead of Southwest and Alaska.

Shortage alert: Renting a car this summer? Things are getting better, but it could still be dicey

Scroll down for the full 2022 rankings.

First/business class ratings

1. JetBlue (878 on a 1,000-point scale)

2. Alaska Airlines (876 points)

3. Delta Air Lines (862 points)

Average for first/business (837 points)

4. Air Canada (832 points)

5. United Airlines (822 points)

6. American Airlines (814 points)

Summer surge: Memorial Day weekend start of busy summer travel season just 3 weeks away

Premium economy ratings

1. JetBlue (851 points on a 1,000-point scale)

2. Delta Air Lines (837 points)

3. Alaska Airlines (825 points)

Average for premium economy (822 points)

4. American Airlines (818 points)

5. United Airlines (801 points)

6. Air Canada (800 points)

Inflight service is back: Here’s what food and drinks you can expect on your next flight

Economy/basic economy ratings

1. Southwest Airlines (849 points on a 1,000-point scale)

2. JetBlue (828 points)

3. Delta Air Lines (813 points)

4. Allegiant Air (803 points)

5. Alaska Airlines (794 points)

Average for economy (792 points)

6. Air Canada (777 points)

7. United Airlines (774 points)

8. Spirit Airlines (772 points)

9. American Airlines (770 points)

10. Frontier Airlines (755 points)

11. WestJet (751 points)

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,600

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Regular APR
16.24% - 23.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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.