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Delta and Southwest America’s Favorites

Delta Air Lines took top customer satisfaction honors in two service tiers—first/business and premium economy—in the J.D. Power 2024 North America Airline Satisfaction Study. Southwest Airlines continued its reign as the leader in the economy/basic economy tier, according to the study released on Wednesday.

Delta moved up to the top spot in the first/business tier, surpassing last year’s leader, JetBlue, which took second place this year. These two were the only airlines scoring above the category’s average. In the premium economy tier, Delta maintained its lead from 2023, while Alaska Airlines and American Airlines ranked second and third, respectively, both above the average. For economy/basic economy, Southwest remained the top choice, with Delta holding onto its second-place position from last year, and Allegiant jumping from sixth to third.

The J.D. Power study surveyed 9,582 passengers who flew on a major North American airline within a month of completing the questionnaire. The data collection period was from March 2023 through March 2024.

Determining whether overall satisfaction has improved from the previous year is challenging due to J.D. Power’s shift in methodology. The company transitioned from a 1-to-10 point scale to a six-category scale and altered the question format, resulting in generally lower scores across all categories.


“You can’t really compare last year’s scores to this year’s,” said Michael Taylor, J.D. Power’s senior managing director for travel, hospitality, retail, and customer service. However, he noted that the overall experience is likely similar to last year or even slightly worse due to persistent industry issues like a lack of aircraft and high prices despite steady demand. “There’s still upside and potential,” he added.

Rather than rating airlines on a scale from one to 10, respondents could now choose from a list of terms like “poor,” “just okay,” “good,” “great,” “excellent,” and “perfect.” Additionally, the study reduced its key assessment dimensions from eight to seven, focusing on airline staff, digital tools, ease of travel, level of trust, on-board experience, pre- and post-flight experience, and value for the price paid.

According to the study, two of the most critical factors driving customer satisfaction were the ease of travel and level of trust. “While things like value for price paid are important, passengers prioritize having a seamless flight experience,” the report states.

Taylor mentioned that digital tools also had a significant impact on satisfaction across all categories. He said people are increasingly satisfied with airline apps because they are more user-friendly and reliable, with the bag-tracking feature playing a notable role in passenger satisfaction.

Media reports also influenced trust scores. According to the study, passengers who encountered negative news about an airline’s performance had trust scores that were 400 points lower on a 1,000-point scale compared to those who hadn’t encountered such news.

“The big takeaway from this year’s study is the power of people to positively influence the overall flight experience,” Taylor said in a statement. “Airlines that invest in staff training and recruitment are finding ways to overcome the negative effects of crowded gates and planes by focusing on customer service.”

This article originally appeared on Airline Ratings

Image source: J.D. Power

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