Lonely Planet Writer

Forget what you’ve heard – airline passenger satisfaction is at an all-time high

If you’ve read the news at all lately, you might assume that there is constant chaos in the skies – but a new study says that passenger satisfaction is actually at an all high time.

Smiling flight attendant serving drinks to passengers.
It turns out passenger satisfaction in the US is at an all-time high. Image by Hero Images/Getty Images

The J.D. Power 2017 North America Airline Satisfaction Study was released this week, finding that overall customer satisfaction with airlines has reached new heights. This is due to overall improvements in the airline business, like lower fares, more on-time flights, fewer lost bags, and less people getting bumped from their flight. The study is based on responses from 11,015 passengers who flew on a major North American airline between March 2016 and March 2017.

Michael Taylor, travel practice lead at J.D. Power, said of the findings that while there have been a number of recent high-profile incidents of airlines mistreating passengers, that data shows that overall, things are getting better. 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”.

A smiling family is traveling in airplane.
More people are satisfied with air travel. Image by Hero Images/Getty Images

On a 1000-point scale, the report found that overall satisfaction with the airline industry increased by 30 points to 756. There are a few key factors that have led to that improvement. Since most travellers are looking for savings, the fact that the average North American airfare fell 8.5% in 2016 to $349 has naturally made a lot of people happy.

Another factor that has improved the way frequent fliers feel about air travel is due to the decrease in passengers getting bumped from flights. But – as recent events show – getting bumped still has the biggest negative impact on travellers’ satisfaction.

The study also ranks airlines, finding that among “traditional carriers” Alaska Airline rated the highest for the 10th year in a row. It was followed by Delta Air Lines, then American Airlines, United Airlines and Air Canada. For low-cost carriers, Southwest came in the top spot for the first time, followed by Jet Blue, WestJet and Frontier.