Airlines Are Getting Better at Customer Service

Despite delays and other airline-related travel challenges, consumers are actually pretty satisfied with the aviation industry these days, according to the latest North American Customer Satisfaction Study out from J.D. Power, which was released earlier this week.

J.D. Power found “record-high customer satisfaction” in its 2018 report, thanks to improvements to planes, better baggage handling, smoother check-in processes and more justifiable fees. Alaska Airlines ranked the highest among traditional carriers with regard to satisfaction, while Southwest Airlines ranked the highest among low-cost carriers. Allegiant showed the most improvement in satisfaction.

Michael Taylor, travel practice lead at J.D. Power, said in a statement that the satisfaction increases are mainly due to better operations:

“Operationally, it’s never been a better time to fly. Passengers perceive greater value in ticket prices, checking in has never been easier, passengers are more satisfied with the actual aircraft and airlines have improved their baggage-handling performance.” 

The expansion of overhead storage space has made a particularly big impact on making customers happier, the report revealed. “The attribute contributing to improved customer perceptions of the aircraft is availability of overhead storage, an area in which the study’s top-ranked airlines have recently invested significantly,” according to J.D. Power.

Though flying has improved in a number of areas, there is still one exception to higher satisfaction—in-flight services, namely entertainment. Connectivity problems with entertainment consoles hurt airlines’ performance in this area, largely because of the level of connectivity that consumers have grown accustomed to while on the ground, Taylor said:

“Today’s passengers expect trouble-free connectivity for personal devices, and airlines are challenged to keep pace with the technology that can achieve that goal. This is important because passengers are far more likely to have a positive experience with an airline if they are entertained during their flight.”

This is the seventh consecutive year in which airlines in the United States and Canada have shown improvement, with satisfaction setting a record high score of 762 this year on a 1,000-point scale. This represents a six-point jump from last year, which also set a record.

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