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Flight full of people with flight attendant in aisle
stockphoto-graf | Adobe Stock

Airline Passenger Satisfaction Is Down—Here’s Why

Inside of a full airplane cabin
andrey gonchar | Adobe Stock

As travel demand rises, airline passenger happiness declines, according to J.D. Power’s new North America Airline Satisfaction Study. Airlines are looking to recoup their pandemic losses, and flyers can now expect packed planes and high ticket prices—but less amenities. 

“Customer satisfaction with North American airlines climbed to unprecedented highs for all of the wrong reasons during the past two years,” said Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power. “Fewer passengers meant more space on airplanes, less waiting in line and more attention from flight attendants. But that business model was simply not sustainable. Now, with volumes surging and some remnants of pandemic-era constraints still in place, passenger satisfaction is in decline.”

J.D. Power’s study surveyed passengers who had flown on a major North American airline February 2021 through March 2022. Flyers were queried on eight factors: aircraft; baggage; boarding; check-in; cost and fees; flight crew; in-flight services; and reservation.

The declining scores put customer satisfaction back to pre-pandemic levels, but the airlines could turn things around as they bring back amenities. “It’s been a very turbulent few years (pardon the pun) for the airline industry,” says Taylor. “Passenger volumes are higher, and the restrictions put in place during the pandemic still in effect may be ending.” Taylor points to United Airlines and American Airlines resuming alcohol service as moves that could increase passenger satisfaction. However, these improvements will have to balance out high airfares. Taylor says, “The key will be managing growing volumes and rising costs while making customers feel like they are getting good value for their money.”

The Highest Ranking Airlines for Customer Satisfaction

The best airline for customer satisfaction changes depending on which class you’re flying. For economy/basic economy passengers, Southwest ranked the highest, followed by JetBlue Airways and Delta Airlines.

Chart showing Economy/Economy Basic customer satisfaction by airlines
J.D. Power

For first/business class flyers, JetBlue Airways scored the highest, followed by Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines.

Chart showing business/first class customer satisfaction by airlines
J.D. Power

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