Travelers are moderately more pleased with airlines for the second year in a row, but that rising satisfaction stops when it comes to costs and fees, according to the 2011 North America Airline Satisfaction Study, released by marketing research firm J.D. Power and Associates yesterday.
Overall customer satisfaction with airlines in 2011 has improved to an average of 683 on a 1,000-point scale, increasing by 10 points from 2010. Among low-cost carriers, satisfaction averages 751 in 2011—a five-year high. However, customer satisfaction with traditional carriers averages 651—16 points lower than the 2007 average of 667.
For both segments, satisfaction has improved from 2010 in nearly all areas of the customer experience areas, with the exception of cost and fees—not surprising given recent rising airfares and the persistence of unbundling fees, which has been greatly adding to carrier revenue.
Compared with 2010, satisfaction with base fares has declined across every airline. However, satisfaction with costs and fees has improved among low-cost carriers, as a whole, to 725 in 2011 from 723 in 2010. This improvement is driven by increased satisfaction in aspects of the cost and fees measure not related to base fares, particularly among carriers that do not charge fees for the first checked bag.
Traditional network carriers have not fared as well, declining from 582 in 2010 to a new low of 555 in 2011. Only Air Canada and Southwest Airlines have improved in the cost and fees factor from 2010.
A bright spot for both low-cost and traditional network carriers is that customers expressed the highest levels of satisfaction with the check-in and reservation processes since 2006.
Alaska Airlines ranks highest in the traditional network carrier segment for a fourth consecutive year. Air Canada improves significantly from 2010 to rank second in the segment, while Continental Airlines ranks third.
For a sixth consecutive year, JetBlue Airways ranks highest in the low-cost carrier segment, followed by Southwest Airlines, which improved considerably from 2010 to rank second in the segment.
The 2011 North America Airline Satisfaction Study is based on responses from more than 13,500 passengers who flew on a major North America airline between July 2010 and April 2011. The study was fielded between August 2010 and April 2011.
Photo: Courtesy Alaska Airlines