Travel demand has soared this past year, but airline customers have become increasingly frustrated with high airfare, staffing shortages and reduced service.
That frustration has led to a decline in passenger satisfaction with airlines, according to the J.D. Power 2023 North America Airline Satisfaction Study. The study found that passenger satisfaction declined even further this year compared to 2022, which also saw a marked decrease in consumer satisfaction. J.D. Power scored passenger satisfaction at 791 out of 1,000 — a seven-point decrease from 2022.
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J.D. Power conducted the study from March 2022 to March 2023, based on responses from 7,774 passengers. The study ranks airlines based on seat classes — first/business, premium economy and economy/basic economy — and on factors such as cost and fees, inflight services and check-in, to name a few.
The study noted that even though airlines raked in record revenues over the past quarters due to operating with limited service and surging airfare, the high costs of flying primarily caused consumer satisfaction to plunge this year.
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“While these drawbacks have not yet put a dent in leisure travel demand, if this trend continues, travelers will reach a breaking point and some airline brands may be damaged,” Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power, said in a statement.
During the peak of the pandemic from 2020 to 2021, airlines received record-high consumer satisfaction ratings because of simplifications to the ticketing process, along with change fee and baggage waivers. Airlines implemented these measures in response to COVID-19.
But as passengers have rapidly returned to traveling, airlines have been unable to keep up.
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Low-cost carriers experienced some of the biggest declines in consumer satisfaction this year — a 19-point dip for satisfaction with economy and basic economy segments — as bargain fares became harder to find.
Related: Brace yourself for an expensive summer travel season
However, the study had some bright spots.
Satisfaction with food and beverage climbed 12 points from 2022, for example.
Passengers flying first or business class reported higher satisfaction for the 2023 study. Overall customer satisfaction with first and business class jumped by nine points, with JetBlue ranking first in the category, followed by Delta Air Lines and United Airlines.
While JetBlue does not offer a formal business-class cabin across its fleet, it does outfit some of its fleet with its Mint lie-flat seats with special perks that mimic business-class service. Those Mint seats are found most frequently on JetBlue’s transcontinental and international flights, though they do fly on a small number of other routes.
A business-class boost: Reviewing JetBlue’s new Mint Suite
For premium economy, Delta took first place. JetBlue and Alaska Airlines ranked second and third, respectively.
Southwest Airlines finished first for basic economy and economy class, followed by Delta in second and JetBlue in third.
Scroll down for the full 2023 rankings:
First/business class ratings
- JetBlue (893).
- Delta Air Lines (865).
- United Airlines (848).
Average for first/business class: 846.
- Alaska Airlines (846).
- Air Canada (830).
- American Airlines (826).
Premium economy ratings
- Delta Air Lines (848).
- JetBlue (840).
- Alaska Airlines (823).
- American Airlines (821).
Average for premium economy: 820.
- Air Canada (797).
- United Airlines (784).
Economy/basic economy ratings
- Southwest Airlines (827).
- Delta Air Lines (801).
- JetBlue (800).
Average for economy/basic economy: 782.
- Alaska Airlines (781).
- WestJet (777).
- Allegiant Air (775).
- United Airlines (770).
- Air Canada (765).
- American Airlines (764).
- Spirit Airlines (727).
- Frontier Airlines (705).