Pretzel taste test aside, JetBlue has come in first as America’s favorite airline — or, considering how down everyone is on the industry these days, the airline Americans hate least.
According to a customer satisfaction survey from J.D. Power and Associates, low cost airlines ranked higher than more traditional carriers, despite the connotations of flying a so-called budget airline. JetBlue, Southwest and WestJet took the three top spots while three major network carriers — American, United and US Airways — came in dead last.
In fact, most budget airlines increased their satisfaction score from the previous year, while traditional carriers’ scores decreased. Delta was the only traditional carrier to improve – the company has taken marked steps to improve the flying experience by offering in-flight Wi-Fi and adding power ports in airport terminals.
The study measured customer satisfaction in seven key areas: cost and fees, in-flight services, boarding/deplaning/baggage, flight crew, aircraft, check-in and reservations. The airlines were then given a score on a 1,000-point scale.
Free checked baggage appeared to have a significant effect on the ratings. The three mostly highly ranked airlines (JetBlue, Southwest and WestJet) don’t charge for checked bags, while those that did charge for the extra item ended up with scores at least 35 points lower.
Ironically, U.S. airlines are having a great year, operationally: in 2012 they performed better on issues like on-time performance and arrivals, baggage handling and customer complaints than they have in 22 years. None of that has stopped customer satisfaction scores from declining across the board. “Passengers expect the plane to arrive on time and their bags to be handled properly,” Stuart Greif, a vice president and general manager at J.D. Power and Associates told MSNBC. “You don’t get credit for delivering on the basics.”
The airline rankings and their scores:
- JetBlue: 776
- Southwest: 770
- WestJet: 733
- AirTran: 698
- Frontier: 694
- Alaska: 680
- Air Canada: 677
- Delta: 650
- American: 647
- United: 625
- US Airways: 614