Money Matters - Simplified

Low-cost airlines bring more satisfaction to passengers

JetBlue Airways has been awarded the highest honor in airline customer satisfaction with a score of 776.

We have been led to believe that bigger is better. Sadly, when it comes to air travel, this is not always the case. In fact, sometimes smaller airlines are better in terms of cost and customer satisfaction!

The latest survey on airline satisfaction from J.D. Power and Associates, released Wednesday found passengers were happier with the overall performance of low-cost airlines than in 2011.

Small carriers, JetBlue Airways and Alaska Airlines have received the seventh and fifth consecutive customer satisfaction awards in their respective segments from the J.D. Power and Associates.

Stuart Greif, vice president and general manager at J.D. Power and Associates said, "The airline industry is caught between trying to satisfy customers who demand low prices, high-quality service and comfort, and contending with the economic challenges of profitably operating an airline."

"Carriers that find innovative ways to provide passengers with greater control, save them time, reduce hassles and make the airline experience more enjoyable and comfortable will reap satisfaction benefits."

The J.D. Power’s analysis found checked baggage fees cost airlines 85 ratings points on the satisfaction index.

2012 North America Airline Satisfaction Study
The latest North America Airline Satisfaction Study is based on responses from more than 14,000 passengers who flew on a major North American airline from May 2011 to April 2012.

The poll ranks all airlines (discount and network) on a 1,000-point scale.

It measured overall customer satisfaction based on seven categories such as cost and fees, boarding and deplaning, in-flight services, check-in, reservation, flight crew and baggage.

The study finds overall passenger satisfaction has declined slightly to 681 index points, down from 683 in 2011. Low-cost carriers scored 754 (increasing 3 index points from 2011) while traditional carriers clocked 647(declining 4 points).

The five budget carriers (JetBlue, Southwest, WestJet, AirTran, and Frontier) improved their standing from the past year whereas all major network carriers with the exception of Delta dropped by several points.

Discount and network airlines
JetBlue Airways has been awarded the highest honor in airline customer satisfaction with a score of 776.

Accepting the honor, Dave Barger, president and CEO of JetBlue Airways, said, "We are honoured and humbled to be ranked highest among low cost carriers by the traveling public, and to receive this highly-respected and sought-after industry accolade for the eighth consecutive year."

Close on the heels of JetBlue Airways was Midway-based Southwest with 770 points. WestJet with 733 points, AirTran at 698 and Frontier at 694 points rounded the top five.

In the traditional network carrier segment Alaska Airlines and Air Canada took top honors at 678 and 677 points respectively.

Delta Air Lines bagged the third spot with 659, the only traditional carrier to improve from 2011, by 9 index points.

Cost and fees factor
Payment of baggage fees and other charges played a pivotal role in passenger satisfaction. Customers were appreciative of services like free checked luggage and airplane snacks.

The J.D. Power’s analysis found checked baggage fees cost airlines 85 ratings points on the satisfaction index.

“When (passengers) have to pay baggage fees, their satisfaction is lower than if they’d gotten the service for free,” Jessica McGregor, J.D. Power’s senior manager of global travel and hospitality.