High air fares drive down passenger satisfaction in airline industry

Survey finds travelers are also frustrated with crowded planes and flight disruptions
Travelers walk through Terminal North of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta on Tuesday, May 9, 2023.

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Travelers walk through Terminal North of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta on Tuesday, May 9, 2023.

High air fares have driven down airline passenger satisfaction, according to a new study by J.D. Power, while flight disruptions continue to frustrate travelers.

For customers, “planes are crowded, tickets are expensive and flight availability is constrained,” according to J.D. Power travel intelligence lead Michael Taylor in a written statement. If that continues, “travelers will reach a breaking point and some airline brands may be damaged.”

Airline passenger satisfaction declined 7 points to an overall score of 791 on a 1,000-point scale, driven mainly by a decline in satisfaction with cost and fees, according to the J.D. Power study released Wednesday. That comes after a 22-point decline last year.

Travelers are finding fewer air fare bargains this year, according to J.D. Power, a consumer data company.

Air fares were up 17.7% year-over-year in March, according to the Consumer Price Index released last month. That was on top of a 23.6% year-over-year increase the previous year.

The Biden Administration on Monday announced plans for a rule to require airlines to compensate passengers for flight cancellations or significant delays that are controllable by the airline. The European Union already requires airlines to compensate passengers for certain lengthy delays and flight cancellations.

“I know how frustrated many of you are with the service you get from your U.S. airlines, especially after you, the American taxpayer, stepped up in 2020, in the last administration, in the early days of the pandemic, to provide nearly $50 billion of assistance to keep the airline industry and its employees afloat,” said President Joe Biden on Monday. “We know how frustrating delays, cancellations, and rebookings are for travelers.”

J.D. Power’s airline rankings, which are broken down by cabin class, showed different airlines ranked highest in each of the three categories.

In the economy/basic economy segment, Southwest Airlines ranked highest in customer satisfaction for the second year in a row. Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines ranked second, followed by JetBlue.

In the premium economy segment, Delta ranked highest, followed by JetBlue and Alaska Airlines.

And in the first class/business class segment, JetBlue ranked highest, followed by Delta and United Airlines.

The scores measure performance for in-flight services, reservations, flight crew, cost and fees, check-in, boarding, baggage and aircraft, based on a survey of 7,774 airline passengers from March 2022 through March 2023.

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