Fliers are "More Satisfied" with Airlines, and Most Satisfied with Alaska and JetBlue

This is interesting.

After three years of increasing unhappiness with airlines in general, fliers now tell J.D. Power and Associates that their “overall satisfaction” with U.S. and Canadian airlines is…improving.

But What about All Those Fees?

Does this mean we are getting used to all those airline fees? Actually…yes. But that’s only part of the story.

Couple of notable points from the study: the hard economic times of the past couple of years have changed fliers’ habits – for example, more passengers are using carryons to avoid expensive checked-bag fees – so, there’s less luggage for the airlines to lose.

“We Simply Don’t Expect as Much from Our Airlines Anymore”

But to me, the real news out of this report is that we simply don’t expect as much from our airlines anymore.

From the J.D. Power airline survey press release: “While passengers may dislike add-on fees, they are gradually starting to accept them. In turn, those fees may be having a less pronounced impact on satisfaction as passengers recalibrate their expectations.”

But that’s not what you want to know, is it? You want to know which airlines are the “best” and the “worst”. Here we go.

“Emotional Attachment” Still Means Something

Once again, the low cost carriers lead the way over the older legacy airlines, and J.D. Power’s Stuart Greif keys in on their “secret sauce”: “[It’s] about creating a travel experience that fosters emotional attachment to a particular carrier, which in turn may make customers willing to flex their schedules or pay a little more for their flights.”

Sounds like a recipe for Southwest – but it was JetBlue that led in overall satisfaction among discount carriers. Here’s the list:

Low Cost Carrier Satisfaction Rankings

1. JetBlue (#1 for the fifth consecutive year)

2. Southwest

3. WestJet

4. AirTran

5. Frontier

Legacy Airlines Satisfaction Rankings

1. Alaska (#1 for the third consecutive year)

2. Continental

3. American

4. Delta

5. Air Canada

6. United

7. US Airways

This survey included interviews with 12,300 passengers who flew on a major North American carrier sometime during April 2009 and April 2010.

“We Want Free Meals”

The amenity passenger want most? A free in-flight airline meal. That’s what the majority who flew the big carriers said, and that’s what the passengers on the discount carriers said (and to think that a generation of comedians made a living from telling us how bad airline food was).

How did your airline rank? Let us know, and tell us if you agree with these lists – and what your level of satisfaction is.

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Published: June 8, 2010