The Most Hated Airline in America

The airline industry has been through an unusual set of gyrations. The COVID-19 pandemic might have shuttered many carriers, as the government stopped all civilian air travel. Only federal bailouts keep them in operation. As the pandemic’s effects lessened, airlines were open for business, and people rushed back to travel. This rush caught the carriers flatfooted. They had to call back the pilots and crew they had sent home, and grounded employees. Too few personnel. Too many passengers. A tremendous mess. Customers became angry in many cases. (These U.S. airports have the lowest customer satisfaction scores.)

One would think airline satisfaction among customers would drop. According to a J.D. Power 2023 North America Airline Satisfaction Study, that is true, to the point where Michael Taylor, a travel intelligence researcher, commented:

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 study was based on a survey of 7,774 passengers who had “flown on a major North America airline within the past month of completing a survey.” Data was collected between March 2022 and March 2023.

The results were broken into “first class,” “premium economy” and “economy” customers. The lowest rating across all carriers and classes was Spirit, with a score of 705. By contrast, the carrier with the best score across all classes of service was JetBlue’s first class at 893.

Ironically, there is a plan to merge JetBlue and Spirit, although it is hung up in regulatory red tape.

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