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Airline Customer Satisfaction Rates are Up

Despite the number of news stories about airline delays, high baggage fees, decreased leg room and small seats, flyers are actually happier with air travel now than they have been for the past seven years.  A survey by J.D. Power and Associates shows that passenger satisfaction with the airline industry is higher now than it has been since 2006.

Some analysts attribute this rise in satisfaction to the fact that passengers’ expectations about things like baggage fees have changed.  Also, savvy flyers have learned to avoid the irritation of waiting in lines by using online check-in options and printing boarding passes electronically rather than checking in at airline counters.

Passengers notably seem to enjoy the increasing availability of Wi-Fi on flights as well.

Airline Customer Satisfaction Rates Highest Since 2006

Low-Cost Carriers Lead The Way in Customer Satisfaction:

Surprisingly, low-cost carriers made the largest gains in customer satisfaction according to the 2013 North America Airline Satisfaction Survey.  In general, passenger satisfaction climbed 14 points from 2012 to 2013.. to an average customer satisfaction rating of 695 out of a thousand.

The average customer satisfaction score for low-cost airlines was an impressive 755 while the average score for the larger traditional carriers was 663.

The following shows the breakdown of survey scores among low-cost airlines:

  • JetBlue: 787
  • Southwest: 770
  • WestJet: 714
  • Frontier: 708
  • AirTran: 705

Satisfaction scores for the larger traditional carriers were as follows:

  • Alaska Airlines: 717
  • Delta: 682
  • Air Canada: 671
  • American: 660
  • United: 641
  • US Airways: 630

Customers Appreciate Online Options and Friendly Service:

Not surprisingly.. people who skipped ticket lines were happier with their experiences than those who waited in lines. Scores for those checking in online averaged 837.. compared to 805 for those using kiosks and 801 for those checking in at counters. The use of online check-in also increased to 36% in 2013.. up from 34% in 2012.

Another important factor in customer satisfaction was service with a smile.  Passengers reporting occasional smiles from staff scored airlines over a hundred points higher than those who reported seeing no friendly faces.  Those who reported that cabin crew and airline staff were consistently friendly scored carriers a whopping 211 points higher than those reporting less friendly staff.

Baggage Fees Still a Detriment to Ratings:

Customers who pay a fee to check bags still report lower satisfaction with air travel than those who do not pay bag check fees.. but the satisfaction gap seems to be shrinking. In 2011, paying a bag fee dropped average satisfaction scores by 100 points.  In 2012, the same fees caused an 85 point drop, and in 2013, the drop was only 63 points.

The number of people who believe bag fees are reasonable also increased to 37% in 2013.. up from 28% in 2012.. whereas only 18% felt fees were reasonable when surveyed in 2011.

Some customers managed to avoid bag fees and the resulting satisfaction drop altogether by using specific airline credit cards.  Many cards allow customers to check bags for free on select airlines and provide discounts on food and other items, access to VIP lounges and other perks.

If you are a frequent traveler, check our selection of Airline Credit Cards as well as the popular and more flexible Travel Reward Credit Cards.

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