Traveler satisfaction is down as planes fill up and airfare rises, survey finds

Travelers wait in line at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in Newark, New Jersey, on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022.
Christopher Occhicone | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Packed planes and more expensive tickets drove down customer satisfaction with airlines for the first time in a decade over the past year, according to a J.D. Power survey published Wednesday.

“Customer satisfaction with North American airlines climbed to unprecedented highs for all of the wrong reasons during the past two years,” said Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power, in the report on North American airlines. “Fewer passengers meant more space on airplanes, less waiting in line and more attention from flight attendants. But that business model was simply not sustainable.”

Air travel demand surged over the past year, along with fares, following a prolonged pandemic slump.

In March, domestic U.S. airfares were 20% higher than 2019 as Covid cases dropped and cities lifted pandemic restrictions on activities such as indoor dining and concerts, according to Adobe Analytics. The rise in ticket prices has outpaced bookings, according to Adobe.

But customer satisfaction dropped among travelers across all the ticket classes — coach, premium economy and first or business class — according to the survey, which was based on responses from 7,004 passengers from March 2021 through March 2022. It was the first year-over-year decline since the 2012 survey, Taylor said.

JetBlue Airways topped the rankings of first- and business-class service among North American carriers, while Southwest Airlines came in first for economy and basic economy.

Here’s how the carriers stacked up and their scores out of 1,000:

First/Business Class

  1. JetBlue Airways (878)
  2. Alaska Airlines (876)
  3. Delta Air Lines (862)
  4. Air Canada (832)
  5. United Airlines (822)
  6. American Airlines (814)

Economy/Basic Economy

  1. Southwest Airlines (849)
  2. JetBlue Airways (828)
  3. Delta Air Lines (813)
  4. Allegiant Air (803)
  5. Alaska Airlines (794)
  6. Air Canada (777)
  7. United Airlines (774)
  8. Spirit Airlines (772)
  9. American Airlines (770)
  10. Frontier Airlines (755)
  11. WestJet (751)

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