Study: American Carriers Disappoint Majority of Fliers, but Upper Echelon Remains Satisfied

New Study Reveals JetBlue as the Leader in First and Business Class Travel within the United States.

Airline Customer Satisfaction Declines as Costs Rise: J.D. Power Study Reveals Potential Brand Damage.

A recent study by J.D. Power has revealed that despite record revenues in the airline industry, customer satisfaction with major airlines in North America has significantly declined for the second consecutive year. The study highlights the negative impact of soaring airfares, limited flight availability, and staffing shortages on passenger experience, raising concerns about potential brand damage if the current trends persist.

“If yield management were the only metric airlines needed to be successful in the long term, this would be a banner year for the industry because they are operating at peak economic efficiency,” said Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power. “From the customer perspective, however, that means 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.”

The North America Airline Satisfaction Study measures passenger satisfaction with airline carriers in North America based on performance in eight factors (in alphabetical order): aircraft; baggage; boarding; check-in; cost and fees; flight crew; in-flight services; and reservation. The study measures passenger satisfaction in three segments—first/business, premium economy and economy/basic economy—and is based on responses from 7,774 passengers. Passengers needed to have flown on a major North America airline within the past month of completing a survey. The study was fielded from March 2022 through March 2023.

@J.D. Power – 2023 North America Airline Satisfaction Study – Overall Customer Satisfaction Index Rating – First/ Business Class

Key Findings:

Overall passenger satisfaction decreases, driven by the cost of airfare: With an overall satisfaction score of 791 (on a 1,000-point scale), there has been a 7-point decline from the previous year. This drop is largely attributed to the rising costs and fees, which have decreased by 17 points since 2022.

First-class passengers buck the trend: Despite the overall decline, passengers in the first/business class segment have experienced a more positive journey. Satisfaction scores for this segment have increased by 9 points, primarily due to improved food and beverage services as many amenities were reinstated post-pandemic.

Low-cost carriers face challenges: Economy/basic economy passengers, who tend to be more price-conscious, have been particularly affected by the declining satisfaction trend. These passengers have found fewer airfare bargains, resulting in a 19-point decrease in satisfaction with cost and fees compared to the previous year.

Food and beverage improvements: One area that has shown improvement across all segments is food and beverage services, with a 12-point increase in satisfaction from 2022.

The J.D. Power study highlights the declining customer satisfaction in the airline industry, primarily driven by the rising cost of airfare and reduced services. While first/business class passengers have reported a more positive experience, economy/basic economy travelers and low-cost carriers face greater challenges. The findings emphasize the importance for airlines to address customer concerns and find a balance between profitability and passenger satisfaction to avoid long-term brand damage.

@J.D. Power – 2023 North America Airline Satisfaction Study – Overall Customer Satisfaction Index Rating – Premium Economy Class


Study Rankings:

JetBlue Airways: Ranked highest in customer satisfaction in the first/business segment for the second consecutive year, with a score of 893. Delta Air Lines (865) and United Airlines (848) follow in second and third place, respectively.

Delta Air Lines: Ranked highest in customer satisfaction in the premium economy segment, with a score of 848. JetBlue Airways (840) and Alaska Airlines (823) rank second and third.

Southwest Airlines: Ranked highest in customer satisfaction in the economy/basic economy segment for the second consecutive year, with a score of 827. Delta Air Lines (801) and JetBlue Airways (800) hold the second and third positions.

@J.D. Power – 2023 North America Airline Satisfaction Study – Overall Customer Satisfaction Index Rating – Economy / Basic Economy Class