Shockingly, Airline Satisfaction Is on the Rise

by Monica Hunter-Hart
Getty Images / Matt Cardy

Airlines have been in the news a lot lately, for a host of terrible reasons: United dragged a passenger off a plane last month in Chicago, causing him injury; Delta completely mishandled storm delays last month in Atlanta; and a huge swath of Spirit cancellations led to violence and arrests on Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale. After all of these incidents and more, a report from research company J.D. Power comes as quite a shock: Airline satisfaction is actually going up.

On Wednesday, J.D. Power published its “2017 North America Airline Satisfaction Study,” which concluded that customer satisfaction with airlines is in fact at its highest rate ever. Over the past year, the approval rating raised 30 points to 756 out of 1,000; this continues an upswing that has been going on for five years.

J.D. Power’s report — which surveyed 11,015 passengers between March 2016 and March 2017 — points to “lower fares, better on-time performance, fewer lost bags and the lowest bump rate ever” as the reasons for the satisfaction increase. For example, over the course of 2016, the average price of a flight in North America dropped 8.5 percent to $349.

If only we all had seats like this, satisfaction ratings would skyrocket.

Getty Images / Mario Tama

The report notes increased disapproval among those who experienced difficulty with overhead storage space, by a margin of 82 points. Other issues that contributed to dissatisfaction include the bumping of passengers, uncomfortable seats, and unclean bathrooms.

Of course, an improving approval rating doesn’t necessarily indicate that airlines are popular. If airlines were students, they’d be achieving Cs with that 756/1,000 score.

“Airlines still rank among the bottom tier of most service industries tracked by J.D. Power,” the report notes, “far lower than North American rental car companies or hotels.”

So although we’re liking airlines more than we did in the past, it’s a low bar.

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