Airline satisfaction is at highest level in years... but why?

jetblue2.jpgPerhaps because the flying experience, while not always wonderful, is a bit more tolerable these days, thanks to greater efficiency and reliability. Industry-wide, satisfaction reached 695 on a 1,000-point scale, according to JD Power, a 14-point increase from 2012 (though only a 3-point rise from 2006). The survey includes satisfaction on fares, fees, in-flight services, and boarding, deplaning and baggage. The low-cost airlines do better than the traditional carriers, with JetBlue routinely receiving the highest numbers of any airline (Alaska is tops in the traditional network category). It's easy to ding airlines for packing planes and charging for basics, but tighter-run operations (technology has made a huge difference) have resulted in relatively inexpensive fares on many routes and less frequent delays. Travelers are even grousing less about the baggage fees. Certainly, there will be complaints - flying millions of people to all corners of the world is a very complicated, often messy business and lots of stuff will go wrong on a daily basis. Still, the industry seems more adept at anticipating trouble, and then dealing with it. From JD Power release:

Despite the fact that passengers are using self-service options in increasing numbers, airline staff continues to impact passenger satisfaction. The industry is improving the customer experience, with both carrier segments achieving an eight-year high for passenger satisfaction with flight crews in 2013. Among passengers who are greeted with a smile by airline staff, even if only some of the time, satisfaction scores are 105 points higher than among those who never receive a smile. The gap doubles to 211 points higher among passengers who are greeted with a smile consistently, compared with those who do not receive a smile at all. "Treating passengers as valued customers and guests--welcoming them with a genuine warm smile--is an important opportunity for airlines to achieve considerably higher levels of satisfaction," said Faza. "With the increasing use of technology reducing some personal interactions in the reservations and check-in processes, making the most of the rest of the passenger interaction with airline staff is imperative."
JD Power America Airline Satisfaction Study (on a 1,000-point scale)

--2013 695
--2012 681
--2011 683
--2010 673
--2009 658
--2008 668
--2007 687
--2006 692

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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