WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. – Airline customer satisfaction has deteriorated to its lowest level in three years, according to a J.D. Power and Associates survey on North American carriers. J.D. Power said declining customer service, "rather than high fares and additional charges for amenities," has created the greatest drag on consumer perceptions of North American airline performance in the past year, according to the survey of 19,701 travelers who took to the North American skies between April 2007 and March 2008.
Citing consumer feedback on the "knowledge, courtesy and helpfulness of reservation and gate agents, check-in staff and flight crew," J.D. Power said the "people factor" witnessed a precipitous drop from findings in the same study released last year. "Across the airline experience, from check-in to the flight to deplaning, passengers are being affected by the ramifications of carriers making staff cutbacks and have expressed that performance and attitudes of airline staff are suffering," Sam Thanawalla, director of the global hospitality and travel practice at J.D. Power and Associates, said in a statement.
Like last year's results, today's study continues to show a divide in customer-service perceptions between legacy carriers and what J.D. Power defined as low-cost carriers — "airlines that operate single-cabin aircraft with typically low fares." JetBlue, for the fourth year in a row, gained the top spot, posting a 776-point score on a 1,000-point scale. JetBlue, along with low-cost carrier peers Southwest, Frontier, and AirTran, averaged 730 points — besting the network carrier segment, which averaged 650 points.
Among network carriers, Alaska Airlines and Continental Airlines posted the highest marks, tying for first with 684 points. This is Continental's third consecutive year leading legacy carriers, while Alaska was the only U.S.-based carrier to improve its overall score in the past year. The survey also showed a tie at the bottom, with Northwest Airlines and United Airlines each averaging 628 points.
"While nearly all of the carriers in both segments experienced declines in satisfaction since 2007, Alaska Airlines has managed to improve, particularly in satisfaction with the overall check-in experience," Thanawalla said. "Alaska Airlines and Air Canada are the only two carriers that improved overall in 2008, which is a particularly impressive feat in the current volatile industry environment."
J.D. Power conducts the annual survey by measuring customer satisfaction in seven categories: cost and fees, flight crew, in-flight services, aircraft, boarding/deplaning/baggage, and checking and reservations.
Source: Business Travel News