Airline Customer Satisfaction Up First Time In Three Years

A new survey from JD Power shows that consumer satisfaction with airlines in North America rose for the first time in three years. Almost 12,000 people responded to the poll which was done between April 2009 and April of this year. The survey covered 11 carriers. Satisfaction was based on fare and fees, flight crew, in-flight services, aircraft, boarding, deplaning, baggage, check-in and reservations, according to USA Today. The industry’s overall score was .673 on a 1,000 point scale, up 15 points from last year.

Add on fees do not seem to be as big a drawback for customers as might be expected. “Passengers don’t like the extra fees, but they are starting to recalibrate their expectations,” says Stuart Greif, a J.D. Power and Associates vice president. As a matter of fact, it may be lower expectations that help satisfaction ratings as much as better service.JetBlue (NASDAQ: JBLU) drew the top spot in the survey. That must be a relief for the carrier whose CEO had to step down after passengers were left stranded on a 2007 flight for 11 hours

Continental (NYSE: CAL) also finished close to the top of the rankings. AirTran was second from the bottom again, just short of Frontier. Delta did poorly, slipping in the rankings, a sign that its merger with NWA may not have gone well, at least from the standpoint of passengers. Mergers usually cause disruptions in reservation systems and labor unrest often affects ground personal and baggage service. It is a bad omen for the Delta tie-up with Continental

Almost every major carrier has cut flights and flight crews as the recession took its toll. Perhaps it dawned on airlines that they needed to cater to the few passengers who were left. That would be a novelty in the industry

The numbers:

Traditional carriers with multiple hubs, multi-cabin aircraft (scores based on 1,000 point scale)

1. Alaska 699

2. Continental 672

3. American 642

4. Delta 640

5. Air Canada 636

6. United 630

7. US Airways 613

Low-cost carriers, usually with single-cabin planes and more discount fares:

1. JetBlue 764

2. Southwest 742

3. WestJet 740

4. AirTran 704

5. Frontier 688

Source: JD Power & Associates

Douglas A. McIntyre

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