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As the line blurs between low-cost and traditional carriers, a mix of newer planes, enhanced customer touchpoints and better ticket value has propelled overall satisfaction with airlines to its highest point.

According to a new J.D. Power 2019 North America Airline Satisfaction Study, traditional carriers are up 11 points from last year due to significant improvements, while their low-cost competitors’ satisfaction has slowed down. Technology investments within the traditional carrier segment have helped travelers feel that they are getting greater value for their money with improved reservation and check-in processes and newer planes.

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The study is now in its 15th year and measures traveler satisfaction with airline carriers in North America based on their performance in cost and fees, in-flight services, quality of aircraft, courtesy of the flight crew, convenience of check-in, reservation, boarding and deplaning. Baggage retrieval, availability of flight information and timeliness were also factored in.

“While low-cost carriers have historically had the highest levels of customer satisfaction in our study, due to a strong sense of value for money among customers, that line is starting to blur as traditional carriers improve their services and operations,” said Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power.

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Key Findings:

  • Record-high customer satisfaction: Continuing an eight-year trend, airline satisfaction has increased 11 points to 773 (on a 1,000-point scale).
  • Improvement driven by traditional carriers: Traditional carriers’ satisfaction score rose 22 points since 2018 while low-cost carriers declined by six points, merging the two segments in satisfaction.
  • Technology investments: Improvements to the reservation and check-in process have changed the airline experience the most. This is driven by investments in digital check-in technologies, self-service kiosks and an effort to improve the pre-flight process across airlines.
  • In-flight services remain lowest ranked: Services such as the variety of seatback entertainment available, food service and Wi-Fi continue to rank the lowest in air traveler experience. Fresh food, availability of seatback games and seatback live TV are specific in-flight amenities that have resulted in the greatest positive effect on air traveler satisfaction.

Study Rankings:

  • Traditional carriers: Alaska Airlines ranks the highest for the 12th consecutive year in a row with Delta Air Lines coming in second and American Airlines ranking third.Bar graph of low-cost airline carrier satisfaction rankingBar graph of traditional airline carrier satisfaction ranking
  • Low-cost carriers: JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines tie for the highest rank. This is the third consecutive year that Southwest Airlines has been at the top of the J.D. Power ranking.
  • Canada-based airlines: Air Canada saw a decline of five points since 2018 in its customer satisfaction score. WestJet’s score increased by 11 points but they still remain below the average score of low-cost carriers.

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