Which Airlines Have the Best Customer Satisfaction Ratings?

According to multiple consumer surveys, the top airlines in terms of flyer satisfaction include several budget airlines, including Allegiant, JetBlue, and Southwest, along with traditional air carriers such as Delta and Alaska Airlines. Customers remain concerned about flight safety as well as ease of check-in, the courtesy of flight attendants, and the cost of tickets.

Millions of people fly commercial airlines every year, but that doesn't mean that they are happy about it. While many people enjoy taking vacations and visiting friends and family, getting to and from a destination can be a hassle. Whether it is high fares with multiple restrictions, long lines at airport security, or spending hours in a cramped cabin, consumers have a lot to complain about.

Still, many airlines do their best to make the passenger experience as pleasant as possible. In most cases, there are a number of factors that can influence how a passenger experiences interactions with the airline and the actual process of travel.

Airline Satisfaction Factors

Consumer research groups and advocates take many factors into consideration when determining customer satisfaction levels. Here are the most important areas:

Aircraft: Consumers want to fly in clean, comfortable, well-maintained aircraft. Fleets that are older, cramped or that feel unsafe diminish the passenger experience. In addition, consumers have become more aware of cleanliness and want to know that cabins are regularly cleaned and sanitized.

Baggage: Airline baggage charges are a consideration, as is the way luggage is handled by the airline. Consumers are also concerned about baggage delays and how good an airline is about reuniting flyers and their luggage. Finally, while travelers do understand that baggage can be scuffed during the travel process, frequent incidences of significant damage to luggage and its contents will diminish flyer satisfaction.

Boarding: Boarding can be stressful for passengers. Consumers appreciate airlines that offer fast, efficient boarding processes. In cases where flights are delayed or cancelled, passengers want to be kept informed of their flight status, as well as options for getting to their destination.

Check-in: Consumers appreciate being able to check into their flights quickly. Most often, passengers check in online, which means that the quality of an airlines website plays a role in how satisfied flyers are with an airline. Websites that crash frequently, or that are slow to respond are likely to frustrate passengers who wish to purchase tickets and check in quickly.

Cost and fees: Price-conscious flyers want low airfares and prefer to not be burdened by multiple surprise fees. There are a few things more frustrating than paying hundreds of dollars for a ticket only to be surprised by multiple additional charges at the airport.

Flight crew: Flyers expect flight crew to be courteous, good communicators, and capable of handing in-flight challenges such as weather issues, delays, and unruly passengers. Well trained flight attendants can make a significant difference even when things go wrong during a flight.

In-flight services: In-flight services, such as meals and beverages, vary between airlines and passenger classes. Still, customers expect to enjoy quality service within their ticket category.

Reservations: Flyers want airlines to make it easy for them to select flights that meet their scheduling needs and budgets.

Airlines With Highest Satisfaction Ratings

According to J.D. Power & Associates, as well as other consumer publications, the following airlines have the highest customer satisfaction ratings:

JetBlue Airways: JetBlue Airways ranks high in most surveys, including first class, business class, premium economy and standard economy services. Consumers remark that every aspect of JetBlue Airways service is often superior to other airlines. For its own part, JetBlue uses technology to monitor every aspect of its operations, and to make quick changes when the technology indicates that there is a service failure. Despite the fact that JetBlue is considered to be a value airline, its service standards are considered to be above many so-called "standard" airlines.

Southwest Airlines: Southwest Airlines is a single-class economy airline that often ranks highest, even above JetBlue Airways, when customers are surveyed about economy-class service. Southwest Airlines operates within 42 states, with flights in and out of 100 cities. Amenities include two free checked bags, the ability to check in as little as 10 minutes before a flight without fees, and complimentary non-alcoholic beverages while in flight.

Alaska Airlines: Alaska Airlines is a traditional airline that flies to 117 destinations. The airline receives high marks for cabin comfort and safety, as well as the service provided by its staff. Flyers also appreciate Alaska Airline's in-flight Wi-Fi service which is said to be of very good quality.

Delta Airlines: Delta is another traditional airline that is highly regarded by travelers. It is particularly noted for offering excellent customer service, as well as a user-friendly website. In addition, Delta has also invested in facial recognition technology at its hub in Atlanta which allows for easier boarding.

Allegiant Air: Allegiant Air is a low-cost airline that serves 133 destinations. Most of the airports that it serves our regional airports and flights are not made to these destinations daily, but perhaps a few times a week. The airline is known for taking steps to reduce costs, such as by purchasing used aircraft and refurbishing them rather than ordering new aircraft for the company. The airline charges for many "extras" such as selecting your own seat or bringing carry-on bags on board. This allows travelers to purchase very inexpensive tickets and only pay for the services that they actually desire and use.

Other Considerations

In addition to the criteria often applied in consumer surveys, there are some other issues you might want to consider when choosing an airline.

  • Loyalty programs: Airline loyalty programs, sometimes also known as "mileage programs" can provide you with significant benefits such as free travel as well as perks, such as upgrades, access to airport lounges, and free amenities such as free baggage checks. Some airlines have better programs than others, so it pays to review them and decide which makes the most sense given your travel habits.
  • Destinations and locations: some airlines have a greater footprint than others. It may make more sense to fly with an airline that has a presence at an airport near you and that flies to destinations where you frequently travel than it is to select a high-ranking airline that is less convenient. It should be noted that most low-cost airlines do you fly out of smaller airports, which can, in some cases, actually be more convenient depending on where you live. Smaller airports may also offer a less stressful boarding environment.
  • Credit card partnerships: some airlines have partnerships with credit card companies that allow you to earn mileage and perks by using the credit card on every day purchases. These partnerships are connected to loyalty programs, but they offer such a wide range of benefits that they should be considered in their own right.
  • Using a travel agent: if you are planning a complex trip, or live in an area where there are a few or no direct flights to your destination, you may wish to work with a travel agent to book your tickets. Travel agents typically charge an extra fee for booking airfare, but the agent may be able to research your options and get you a good deal on the most direct flight possible.

Final Word

Air travel has become less convenient and comfortable in recent years, but that shouldn't mean that flying should be avoided. Taking time to choose the right airline and fare class can make a huge difference in your travel experience.

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