Thanks to airline consolidation, rising fuel costs, new taxes and fees, and efforts by airlines to increase revenue, it's never been more expensive to fly. And yet, passengers don't seem much to mind, according to J.D. Power and Associates, which this week released the results of the J.D. Power and Associates 2014 North America Airline Satisfaction Study.
Despite growing costs and fees, customer satisfaction with airlines has increased for the second consecutive year, according to J.D. Power, which said passenger satisfaction is now at an all-time high.
Overall customer satisfaction with airlines in 2014 averages 712 on a 1,000-point scale, which is 17 points higher than 2013. J.D. Power attributes the increase to passengers' growing comfort with cost and fees, satisfaction with which improved to 642 in 2014 from 618 in 2013.
"It isn't that passengers are satisfied with fees, it's that they are simply less dissatisfied because they realize that fees have become a way of life with air travel," Rick Garlick, global travel and hospitality practice lead at J.D. Power, said in a statement. "Passengers are over the sticker shock of being charged more to fly, having to pay for checked bags, expedited security clearance or for preferred seating."
Among passengers who pay for checked baggage, satisfaction averages 694, compared to 742 among passengers who receive complimentary checked baggage. The former is up from 637 last year.
Despite improvements, however, airlines still trail hotels and rental cars, satisfaction with which is 777 and 775, respectively, as well as reviled industries such as credit card and mortgage lenders, satisfaction with which is 767 and 771, respectively.
"No doubt the airline industry is doing a better job of pleasing passengers, but there still is a lot of room for improvement," Garlick continued. "Satisfaction in improving, but it's a stretch to say passengers are truly happy."
Low-cost carriers outrank traditional carriers in customer satisfaction. Satisfaction with the former averages 763, up eight points from 2013, while satisfaction with the latter averages 683, up 20 points from 2013.
Among low-cost carriers, the top airlines for customer satisfaction are:
- JetBlue Airways (789)
- Southwest Airlines (778)
- WestJet (734)
- AirTran Airways (706)
- Frontier Airlines (676)
Among traditional network carriers, meanwhile, the top airlines for customer satisfaction are:
- Alaska Airlines (737)
- Delta Air Lines (693)
- American Airlines (684)
- Air Canada (683)
- United Airlines (658)
- US Airways (656)