Despite recent headlines, Facebook posts and YouTube videos about incidents of people being treated badly on some flights, a recent study shows a substantial increase in customer satisfaction with airlines in North America. Conducted by J.D. Power, the 2017 North American Airline Satisfaction Study found that overall satisfaction has increased by 30 points, up to 756 out of 1,000, as compared to the previous year. Furthermore, this increasing level of customer satisfaction continues a trend that now stretches over five consecutive years.
According to the results, lower fares, better on-time performance, fewer lost bags and the lowest bump rate ever recorded have contributed to steady improvement in customer satisfaction with North American airlines.
The report does note, however, that airlines still rank among the bottom tier of most service industries tracked by J.D. Power. “It’s impossible to think about airline customer satisfaction without replaying the recent images of a passenger being dragged from a seat but our data shows that, as a whole, the airline industry has been making marked improvements in customer satisfaction across a variety of metrics, from ticket cost to flight crew,” said Michael Taylor, travel practice lead at J.D. Power. “As recent events remind us, however, airlines have significant room for improvement. Airlines rank far lower than North American rental car companies or hotels.”
SOME OF THE KEY FINDINGS OF THE 2017 SURVEY:
Overall satisfaction with the airline industry in 2017 increased by a significant 30 points to 756 (on a 1,000-point scale), continuing a trend of steady performance increases that began in 2013.
Lower costs, fewer problems, satisfaction with crews drive improvement:
The average North American airfare fell 8.5 percent in 2016 to $349, helping to drive satisfaction levels in the cost-and-fees factor in the study to the highest level since 2006. Improved on-time performance, fewer lost bags, historically low bump rates and high scores for flight crews also contribute to the overall increase in airline customer satisfaction.
Social media is feedback tool of choice:
Among business travelers, 21 percent posted a comment about their airline experience on social media, while 8 percent of leisure travelers did the same. It is worth noting that nearly three-fourths of social media comments are described as “positive” by those postings. The most commonly used social media platforms are Facebook (81 percent) and Twitter (41 percent). When an airline responds to any social media post – whether it’s positive or negative – there is a noteworthy 121-point lift in passenger satisfaction.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the overhead bins are full…”:
After a slight dip in 2016, passenger problems with overhead storage have become more common, with 14 percent of passengers in 2017 reporting this as an issue on their flight. Satisfaction among flyers having difficulty with overhead storage is 82 points lower than among those who don’t have difficulty. The problem is inversely related to age, as travelers in younger generations are more likely to experience a problem with overhead storage than are older travelers.
Bumping occurs infrequently—but significantly affects satisfaction:
Although instances of denial of boarding and re-booking to another flight (bumping) have reached historic lows in frequency, they have the greatest negative influence on overall satisfaction. However, when there are delays, such as those caused by weather or mechanical issues, satisfaction levels fall by 101 points when a traditional carrier is delayed and by 59 points when a low-cost carrier is delayed.
Among traditional carriers, Alaska Airlines ranked highest for the 10th consecutive year, with an index score of 765. Alaska Airlines performed particularly well in all seven factors of the study. Delta Air Lines ranked second (758), improving in all seven factors.
The North America Airline Satisfaction Study, now in its 13th year, measures passenger satisfaction with North American airline carriers based on performance in seven factors: cost and fees; in-flight services; aircraft; boarding/deplaning/baggage; flight crew; check-in; and reservation.
The study is based on responses from 11,015 passengers who flew on a major North American airline between March 2016 and March 2017.
Click here to view more articles from the June 2017 issue of ConventionSouth Magazine.