Airline Satisfaction Keeps Improving

Despite recent media reports, J.D. Power reports increased satisfaction among consumers By: Kenneth Shapiro
Airlines are providing better customer service. // © 2017 iStock
Airlines are providing better customer service. // © 2017 iStock

The Details

J.D. Power

According to the recently released “J.D. Power 2017 North America Airline Satisfaction Study,” overall satisfaction with the airline industry in 2017 increased by 30 points to 756 (on a 1,000-point scale). Among traditional carriers, Alaska Airlines ranked highest for the 10th consecutive year, while Delta Air Lines ranked second. Among low-cost carriers, Southwest Airlines ranked highest.

Why It Matters:
Anyone paying attention to recent headlines might find it hard to believe, but the U.S. airline industry is actually doing a better job with customer satisfaction across the board. In addition, the survey showed that the average cost of air travel fell 8.5 percent, which hopefully means more people can afford to fly. Agents might want to inform clients about this survey as a counter to the constant negative media attention airlines have received lately.

Fast Facts:
- Both traditional and low-cost carriers have shown improvement in recent years, with the traditional carriers continuing to close the satisfaction gap with low-cost carriers (740 vs. 784, respectively).

- In addition to lower fares, improved on-time performance, fewer lost bags, historically low bump rates and high scores for flight crews also contributed to the overall increase in airline customer satisfaction.

- Among business travelers, 21 percent posted a comment about their airline experience on social media, while 8 percent of leisure travelers did the same. It is worth noting that nearly three-fourths of social media comments are described as “positive” by those posting. When an airline responds to any social media post—whether it’s positive or negative—there is a noteworthy 121-point lift in passenger satisfaction.

- After a slight dip in 2016, passenger problems with overhead storage has become more common, with 14 percent of passengers in 2017 reporting this as an issue on their flight. Satisfaction among flyers having difficulty with overhead storage is 82 points lower than among those who don’t have difficulty. The problem is inversely related to age, as travelers in younger generations are more likely to experience a problem with overhead storage than are older travelers.

- Although instances of denial of boarding and re-booking to another flight (bumping) have reached historic lows in frequency, they have the greatest negative influence on overall satisfaction. However, when there are delays, such as those caused by weather or mechanical issues, satisfaction levels fall by 101 points when a traditional carrier is delayed and by 59 points when a low-cost carrier is delayed. 

- The study is based on responses from 11,015 passengers who flew on a major North American airline between March 2016 and March 2017. The study was fielded between April 2016 and March 2017. 

What They Are Saying:
“It’s impossible to think about airline customer satisfaction without replaying the recent images of a passenger being dragged from a seat, but our data shows that, as a whole, the airline industry has been making marked improvements in customer satisfaction across a variety of metrics, from ticket cost to flight crew,” said Michael Taylor, travel practice lead at J.D. Power. “As recent events remind us, however, airlines have significant room for improvement. Airlines still rank among the bottom tier of most service industries tracked by J.D. Power, far lower than North American rental car companies or hotels.”

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