JetBlue Tops the List for Favorite U.S. Airline

J.D. Power and Associates has released its 2012 North American Airline Satisfaction survey and, once again, JetBlue tops the list.

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JetBlue: Number One for Seven Years in a Row

The top spot is a familiar position for the New York-based carrier – JetBlue has earned J.D. Power’s number one position for seven years in a row.

The 2012 survey accorded it the highest overall satisfaction score (776) among the so-called discount airlines, and all the lower-cost carriers earned higher scores than any of the large, legacy airlines. As J.D. Power put it, the rankings show that “traditional carriers still struggle to meet travelers’ expectations.”

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Low-Cost Carrier Rankings

J.D. Power’s Jessica McGregor spoke with FareCompare by phone and stated that since the 2011 survey, “Low-cost carriers were stable or moved up in satisfaction scores,” while legacy carrier scores dropped, with the exception of Delta which gained ground. Here are the low-cost carrier rankings:


Low-Cost Airline Ranking

Overall Satisfaction Score

1. JetBlue


2. Southwest


3. WestJet


4. AirTran


5. Frontier



Legacy Airline Rankings

Note that the highest legacy carrier score, earned by Alaska (678) is less than the lowest score achieved by discount carrier Frontier (694).


Legacy Airline Ranking

Overall Satisfaction Score

1. Alaska


2. Air Canada


3. Continental*


4. American


5. United


6. US Airways



*The Continental brand has now disappeared since its merger with United

Airline Scores Criteria

The scores are the result of responses from more than 13,500 business and leisure passengers who flew on a major North American airline between May 2011 and April 2012.

Airlines were ranked in the following categories: cost and fees; in-flight services; boarding/deplaning/baggage; flight crew; aircraft; check-in; and reservation. The biggest problem for a lot of those surveyed: bag fees.

Survey Respondents Don’t Like Bag Fees

According to J.D. Power, checked-bag fees are a “customer sore point” with satisfaction averaging 85 points lower among those who actually do pay bag fees. This is where the higher scoring discount carriers have a distinct advantage, since two of them – JetBlue and Southwest – don’t charge for a first checked-bag (and Southwest doesn’t charge for a second one, either).

A partial explanation for United’s low ranking: ongoing computer glitches that began in March when it combined its online operations with the old Continental website.

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Virgin America Not Included in Survey

One popular, award-winning airline – Virgin America – which was included in J.D. Power’s earlier report on Top 50 Companies for Customer Service, did not make this latest survey because its limited route system and subsequent lower annual passenger revenue did not qualify it as a major airline at least for the purposes of this report.


Published: June 13, 2012