Airlines Book Record Revenues at the Expense of Customer Satisfaction
Soaring travel demand, limited supply and surging airfares have helped airlines book record revenues during the past two quarters. But the extra revenue is coming at the expense of customer satisfaction.
According to the J.D. Power 2023 North America Airline Satisfaction Study, customer satisfaction with major airlines is down significantly for a second consecutive year due to price hikes, staffing shortages and reduced routes.
The North America Airline Satisfaction Study measures passenger satisfaction with airline carriers in North America based on performance in eight factors: aircraft; baggage; boarding; check-in; cost and fees; flight crew; in-flight services; and reservation. The study measures passenger satisfaction in three segments, divided in first/business, premium economy and economy/basic economy.
Scores are based on responses from 7,774 passengers. Passengers needed to have flown on a major North America airline within the past month of completing a survey. The study was fielded from March 2022 through March 2023.
Some of the key findings in the study include:
- Overall passenger satisfaction declines, driven largely by cost of airfare: Overall passenger satisfaction is 791 (on a 1,000-point scale), down 7 points from a year ago. This is the second consecutive year of waning passenger satisfaction, following a 22-point decline in 2022 from 2021. The biggest factor driving this year’s decline in satisfaction is cost and fees, which has fallen 17 points from 2022.
- First-class passengers buck the trend: While overall satisfaction is down, passengers in the first/business segment have had a decidedly more positive experience. Passenger satisfaction scores in this segment are up 9 points year over year. The gains are due in part to increases in food and beverage scores as many services were reinstated for upper class cabins in the post-pandemic period.
- Low-cost carriers feel the pinch: Annual declines in passenger satisfaction are most pronounced in the economy/basic economy segment where price-conscious passengers have found fewer airfare bargains this year. Satisfaction with cost and fees in the economy/basic economy segment is down 19 points from a year ago.
- One thing everyone can agree on: One of the few areas showing improvement across all segments this year is food and beverage, which is up 12 points overall from 2022.
JetBlue Airways ranks highest in customer satisfaction in the first/business segment for a second consecutive year, with a score of 893. Delta Air Lines (865) ranks second and United Airlines (848) ranks third.
Delta Air Lines ranks highest in customer satisfaction in the premium economy segment with a score of 848. JetBlue Airways (840) ranks second and Alaska Airlines (823) ranks third.
Southwest Airlines ranks highest in customer satisfaction in the economy/basic economy segment for a second consecutive year, with a score of 827. Delta Air Lines (801) ranks second and JetBlue Airways (800) ranks third.