Airport crowds are back, empty middle seats are once again occupied, and North American airlines are raising ticket prices in response to rising fuel costs and continued strong leisure travel demand – all at the expense of passenger satisfaction. While drastically higher fares could hurt airline image in the long run, for now, load factors continue to rise, according to J.D. Power’s 2022 North American Airline Satisfaction Study. “Customer satisfaction with North American airlines has risen to unprecedented heights over the past two years,” said the company’s head of travel intelligence. “Fewer passengers means more seats on planes, fewer lines, and more attention from flight attendants. But this business model was simply not sustainable. Now that volumes have soared, and some remnants of the pandemic-era restrictions still remain, passenger satisfaction is down – but that’s not really bad news. If airlines can find a way to manage rising volumes while making some small adjustments to help passengers feel more appreciated, they should be able to manage a return to ‘normal’.”
Some key findings of the study:
Satisfaction drops steeply in almost all metrics: overall passenger satisfaction in all three segments surveyed – first/business, premium economy, and tourist/basic economy, is more than 20 points lower on a 1,000-point scale than a year ago. Passenger satisfaction with costs, flight crew, and aircraft fell in this year’s study. Cost is also reported as a factor affecting satisfaction, with the average ticket price up 20% due to higher fuel prices and increasing demand. Overall satisfaction with costs and fees is down in the premium economy segment (-66 points), the economy/basic economy segment (-33), and the first/business segment (-21). In the business segment, JetBlue Airways leads in customer satisfaction with 878 points. Alaska Airlines is second (876) and Delta Airlines is third (862).