The 5 Most Satisfying Airlines in North America

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Passengers are more satisfied with the major North American airlines across the board this year.

Scores for overall satisfaction, and for satisfaction with traditional and low-costs carriers, are all up, according to the J.D. Power 2015 North America Airline Satisfaction Study. Two traditional carriers, American and Delta, showed the most improvement, each boosting its satisfaction score by 16 points.

Only one other traditional carrier (the No. 1 ranked Alaska Airlines) scored above the average for its peers, and only two low-cost carriers (JetBlue and Southwest) scored above average. Southwest was also the only American carrier to make WanderBat’s list of “The Most Reliable Airlines In The World” last month.

The J.D. Power study measures satisfaction among both business and leisure passengers, and it had more than 11,000 respondents this year. J.D. Power gauges satisfaction based on how airlines perform in seven areas, which are (in order of importance):

  1. Cost and fees
  2. In-flight services
  3. Boarding/deplaning/baggage
  4. Flight crew
  5. Aircraft
  6. Check-in
  7. Reservations

The factors that most contributed to this year’s increases in satisfaction are flight crew, in-flight services, and costs and fees.

At the same time, the increased scores are deceptive in that improved customer service isn’t the only reason for improved scores.

Rick Garlick, global travel and hospitality practice lead at J.D. Power, tells Fortune magazine that people have adapted to fees that once upset them: “So it might be more accurate to say people are less dissatisfied.”

Airline satisfaction scores are also low relative to those of other industries that J.D. Power ranks, including banks and mortgage lenders, Fortune reports.

The airline with the highest satisfaction rating this year is JetBlue, which earned a score of 801. That’s equivalent to a grade of B-. The other four airlines whose scores were higher than average would earn the equivalent of a C+ or a C-.

Traditional carriers (average score of 691)

  • Alaska Airlines (score of 719 out 1,000 points)
  • Delta Air Lines (709)
  • American Airlines (700)
  • Air Canada (683)
  • U.S. Airways (668)
  • United Airlines (665)

Low-cost carriers (average score of 766)

  1. JetBlue Airways (801 out of 1,000 points)
  2. Southwest Airlines (781)
  3. WestJet (715)
  4. AirTran Airways (702)
  5. Frontier Airlines (659)

Spirit Airlines, which is usually ranked the worst, was omitted from the study this year due to insufficient responses from passengers, Fortune reports. If J.D. Power had included it, though, it would have again ranked the worst, earning a score of 629.

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