On a 1,000-point scale, passengers rated their satisfaction at 791 points—a C , in letter grades—according to the 2023 North America Airline Satisfaction Study, released on Wednesday, from consumer research firm J.D. Power. The number reflects an overall decline of seven points since 2022, making it the second consecutive year that sentiment toward US airlines has soured. The exception: First- and business-class passengers, who say they feel service has improved in the last 12 months.
The study reflects the opinions of 7,774 passengers who took to the skies from March 2022 to March 2023. Their satisfaction was measured across eight factors, including check-in, baggage retrieval, costs and fees, boarding and in-flight services.
Winners and Losers
Top grades went to JetBlue Airways Corp., which for the second year in a row surpassed Delta Air Lines Inc. as the best overall airline for passenger satisfaction in the first- and business-class segment. Southwest Airlines Co. took the top spot among consumers as the best carrier for economy travel, in spite of its multiple recent failures. American Airlines Group Inc. struggled across the board, ranking among the three worst airlines for every type of cabin class available.
Unsurprisingly, it’s the travelers in the back of the plane who have the loudest complaints; satisfaction with flying economy has dropped 19 points as price-conscious customers find costs and fees to be their greatest pain point. But like their fellow passengers in business and first, even economy travelers conceded one silver lining: Food and beverage service is getting better across the board. If you’re flying in JetBlue’s Mint business class, for instance, you’ll get meals straight out of New York City restaurants Charlie Bird and Pasquale Jones, thanks to a recent partnership with Delicious Hospitality Group.
It’s not enough to offset the chaos associated with staffing shortages and inflated fares, though. High travel demand has been good news for airlines’ bottom line, but “if this trend [of inflated airfare and reduced service] continues, travelers will reach a breaking point and some airline brands may be damaged,” said Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power, in a release.
Help may be on the way. This fall the US federal government is expected to approve a new funding package for the Federal Aviation Administration as part of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act; there’s hope it will allocate budget to tackle staffing and technology deficiencies hampering operations at many US airports and airlines.
In the meantime, these are the best and worst airlines in the US based on passenger satisfaction levels, by cabin.
Best in First and Business ClassJetBlue AirwaysDelta AirlinesUnited AirlinesWorst in First and Business ClassAmerican AirlinesAlaska Airlines
Best in Premium EconomyJetBlue AirwaysDelta Air LinesAlaska Airlines
Worst in Premium EconomyAmerican AirlinesUnited Airlines
Best in Economy/Basic EconomySouthwest AirlinesDelta Air LinesJetBlue Airways
Worst in Economy/Basic EconomyFrontier AirlinesSpirit AirlinesAmerican Airlines
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