The North American aviation industry is one of the most competitive markets in the world with airlines battling to get ahead of one another and be the number one choice for customers.

While airlines continue to wrestle with ways to create happy customers, the latest JD Power North America Airline Satisfaction Study suggests that it may be easier to achieve than they think.

According to the latest annual survey, released on May 8, 2024, airlines that performed best were those with friendly staff who are simply nice to their passengers.

Against the backdrop of crowded airports, expensive fares and annoying fellow travelers the study found that carriers making big investments in staff training and trying to improve the overall flight experience were the ones with the happiest flyers.

“There are many aspects to the overall air travel experience that airlines cannot control, but one area in which they can profoundly influence is the positive effect that airline staff has on passengers The big takeaway from this year’s study is the power of people to positively influence the overall flight experience,” Michael Taylor, Senior Managing Director of travel, hospitality, retail and customer service, said.

Taylor added: “Airlines that are investing in staff training and recruitment are finding ways to overcome the negative effects of crowded gates and planes simply by being nice to their customers.”

The study also discovered that the two biggest factors driving overall airline customer satisfaction are ease of travel and trust and while the cost of a ticket was important a seamless journey was more of a priority.

The top performing airlines were also those that made substantial investments in the people side of their business and the level of trust passengers have in their carrier is correlated to media coverage about that airline.

Study results

The two big winners for customer satisfaction in this year’s JD Power study were Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines with Air Canada and Frontier Airlines performing worst.

For customer satisfaction in the first and business segment, Delta received a score of 743 out of 1,000 and JetBlue Airways (736) ranked second.

Delta was top for a second year running in the premium economy segment with a score of 716. Alaska Airlines (687) ranked second and American Airlines (684) in third place.

In the economy segment Southwest claimed first place with a score of 716, while Delta (651) came second and Allegiant Air (633) third.

The study, fielded from March 2023 through March 2024, was based on 9,582 passengers that had flown on a major North America airline within the preceding month.

Passengers were asked to use a poor-to-perfect six-point rating scale and rate the carriers on airline staff, digital tools, ease of travel, level of trust, on-board experience, pre/post-flight experience and value for price paid.

Full results of study

First and business segment:

  • Delta: 743
  • JetBlue: 736
  • United: 698
  • Alaska: 695
  • American: 676
  • Air Canada: 629

Premium economy segment:

  • Delta: 716
  • Alaska: 687
  • American: 684
  • JetBlue: 667
  • WestJet: 664
  • United: 641
  • Air Canada: 628

Economy segment:

  • Southwest: 685
  • Delta: 651
  • Allegiant Air: 633
  • Alaska: 630
  • JetBlue: 630
  • American: 611
  • WestJet: 591
  • United: 585
  • Air Canada: 542
  • Spirit Airlines: 507
  • Frontier: 472
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