Delta named second-best in J.D. Power ranking

Delta Air Lines came in second place in its category in a closely-watched J.D. Power airline satisfaction study.

Delta follows closely behind Alaska Airlines which has ranked highest for 10 years in a row.

Among low-cost carriers, Southwest Airlines came in first, followed by JetBlue in second place.

“It’s impossible to think about airline customer satisfaction without replaying the recent images of a passenger being dragged from a seat,” said Michael Taylor, travel practice lead at J.D. Power, in a written statement. But he said overall, “the airline industry has been making marked improvements in customer satisfaction across a variety of metrics, from ticket cost to flight crew.”

A decline in air fares in 2016 helped to drive satisfaction with cost and fees, according to J.D. Power.

Taylor added, however, that “airlines have significant room for improvement,” and the airline industry is in the bottom tier of most service industries.

The J.D. Power study measures passenger satisfaction among business and leisure travelers based on a survey of about 11,000 passengers who flew between March 2016 and March 2017. In order of importance, it looks at costs and fees; in-flight services, aircraft, boarding/deplaning/baggage, flight crew, check-in and reservations.

Atlanta-based Delta improved in all seven factors, according to the J.D. Power study on North American airline satisfaction. In the traditional carrier segment, Delta came in ahead of American in third place, United in fourth place and Air Canada in fifth place.

But both Southwest and JetBlue scored higher than all of the “traditional carriers” including Delta and Alaska.

It’s the first time Southwest ranked highest in the 13-year-old J.D. Power study, after JetBlue ended an 11-year run in the No. 1 spot.

Ultra low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines came in last place in the airline satisfaction study.

The study showed that some pain points for travelers stand out: Problems with overhead bin space have become more common, according to the study. Younger travelers are more likely to have a problem with overhead storage than older travelers, the study showed.

Issues with airline crews, staff and “attitude” are not the most common problems, according to the J.D. Power study.

Instead, the most widely reported issues are with seat comfort, followed by issues with aircraft lavatory cleanliness. With planes running fuller than they did ten years ago, passengers are “more likely to find themselves in a middle seat and less likely to have an empty seat next to them,” according to J.D. Power.

Instances of airlines bumping passengers and denying them boarding have declined, according to the study, but “they have the greatest negative influence on overall satisfaction.”