Delta, Southwest Lead Revamped J.D. Power Satisfaction Study

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Delta Air Lines took top customer satisfaction honors in two service tiers—first/business and premium economy—while Southwest retained its top ranking for the economy/basic economy tier, according to the J.D. Power 2024 North America Airline Satisfaction Study, released Wednesday.

Delta traded places from last year’s rankings with JetBlue for the first/business tier, with the latter coming in second this year. They were the only two carriers with scores above the average for the category. For premium economy, which Delta also led in 2023, Alaska Airlines was second, followed by American Airlines each above the average. Following Southwest for economy/basic economy, Delta took second as it did in 2023, and Allegiant moved up from sixth place to third. 

The J.D. Power 2024 North America Airlines Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 9,582 passengers who flew on a major North America airline with the past month of completing the survey. The study was fielded from March 2023 through March 2024.

[Report continues below chart.]

2024-05-08 JD Power Airline

As for whether overall satisfaction is better than last year, it’s difficult to tell, because J.D. Power revamped its methodology, changing how questions were asked and moving to a six-category scale from a one- to 10-point scale, which resulted in overall lower scores across the categories.

“You really can’t compare last year’s score to this year’s score,” J.D. Power senior managing director of travel, hospitality, retail and customer service Michael Taylor told BTN. Still, he added that “I would say things are probably the same as they were last year, if not slightly worse. The basic underlying problems of the industry still remain, which is [that] we don’t have enough aircraft flying and prices are quite high, even though demand has not slacked off. … There’s still upside [and] potential.”

Instead of ranking carriers from one to 10, survey takers could rate carriers “poor,” “just okay”, “good,” “great,” “excellent” and “perfect,” Taylor said. The dimensions ranked also shifted from eight to seven, including airline staff, digital tools, ease of travel, level of trust, on-board experience, pre- and post-flight experience and value for price paid.

Two big factors driving overall airline satisfaction were ease of travel and level of trust. “While things like value for price paid are important, it is more important to passengers just to have a seamless flight,” according to the report. 

Taylor added that digital tools scored high as well across all the categories. “Everybody likes the apps,” he said. “They’re getting to the point where they’re easy to use, they’re really communicating well, operating well, and people who use the bag-tracking part of the app—that was worth a lot of points. That was a big swing factor.”

Media coverage also had a major influence on trust scores, according to the report. “Overall satisfaction scores for trust are 400 points lower on a 1,000-point scale among passengers who saw negative news coverage of an airline’s performance in the past year,” according to J.D. Power. 

Still, “the big takeaway from this year’s study in the power of people to positively influence the overall flight experience,” Taylor said in a statement. “Airlines that are investing in staff training and recruitment are finding ways to overcome the negative effects of crowded gates and planes simply by being nice to their customers.”

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