Given the extremely rocky recovery in air travel postpandemic, it probably comes as little surprise that passengers aren’t exactly thrilled with the airlines right now. Their malcontent was confirmed on Tuesday, when J.D. Power released its 2023 North America Airline Satisfaction Study indicating that overall passenger satisfaction is down from a year ago.
The report was based on a survey that was conducted from March 2022 to March 2023 and culled responses from 7,774 passengers who had flown with a major North America airline within the past month. And it found that overall passenger satisfaction had dropped to 791 (on a 1,000-point scale) from 798 one year ago. The dip followed a 22-point decline in overall passenger satisfaction in 2022 from 2021.
The North America Airline Satisfaction Study measures passenger satisfaction based on eight factors:
- Baggage handling
- Boarding process
- Check-in process
- Cost and fees
- Flight crew
- In-flight services
- Reservations and booking
The study divides passenger satisfaction ratings into three segments—first and business, premium economy, and economy and basic economy. Across all three segments, the biggest driver of disappointment for fliers this past year has been airfares and fees. Airfares have been on the rise in recent months due to a variety of factors, including demand, inflation, rising oil prices, and capacity shortfalls.
“From the customer perspective . . . planes are crowded, tickets are expensive, and flight availability is constrained. While these drawbacks have not yet put a dent in leisure travel demand, if this trend continues, travelers will reach a breaking point and some airline brands may be damaged,” stated Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power.
Interestingly, while overall satisfaction is down, first-class and business-class passengers indicated an improvement in the flying experience compared to a year prior—and one thing they really appreciate is that food and beverage services have returned after being essentially eliminated or extremely scaled back during the pandemic.
In fact, in-flight drinks and dining was a bright spot across the board, up 12 points from 2022.
The biggest declines were felt in the back of the plane, where passengers have been particularly disgruntled about the high cost of economy and basic economy seats. Southwest Airlines claimed the top spot for the category despite its epic operations meltdown over the holidays, after which the company apologized repeatedly to travelers and offered a big mileage bump to those affected by the massive cascade of cancellations. Here’s how all the other airlines stacked up.
What are the best North America airlines?
In the J.D. Power 2023 North America Airline Satisfaction, passenger satisfaction ratings were divided into three segments—first and business, premium economy, and economy and basic economy.
The top-rated North America airlines for economy and basic economy
- Southwest Airlines (827 points)
- Delta Air Lines (801 points)
- JetBlue Airways (800 points)
- Alaska Airlines (781 points)
- WestJet (777 points)
- Allegiant Air (775 points)
- United Airlines (770 points)
- Air Canada (765 points)
- American Airlines (764 points)
- Spirit Airlines (727 points)
- Frontier Airlines (705 points)
The top-rated North America airlines for premium economy
- Delta Air Lines (848 points)
- JetBlue Airways (840 points)
- Alaska Airlines (823 points)
- American Airlines (821 points)
- Air Canada (797 points)
- United Airlines (784 points)
The top-rated North America airlines for first and business class
- JetBlue Airways (893 points)
- Delta Air Lines (865 points)
- United Airlines (848 points)
- Alaska Airlines (833 points)
- Air Canada (830 points)
- American Airlines (826 points)