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J.D. Power Survey: Airline Passenger Satisfaction Falls for Second Year in a Row

A possible explanation: The steady rise in passenger has caused customer service to be stretched

by Fergus Cole

May 11, 2023

Photo: Courtesy of Erwan Hesry / Unsplash

While demand for air travel is surging following the loosening of pandemic restrictions, customer satisfaction with North American airlines has fallen for the second year running, according to a recent survey.

The J.D. Power 2023 North America Airline Satisfaction Study was released on Wednesday, revealing that overall passenger satisfaction with North American carriers is at 791 out of 1,000—a seven-point drop compared to 2022, which saw a 22-point drop in passenger satisfaction compared to 2021.

Photo: New York JFK Airport. Courtesy of Miguel Ángel Sanz / Unsplash

The survey results were based on responses from more than 7,700 air passengers who had flown with a major North American airline the previous month, from March 2022 to March 2023. Respondents were also divided into three categories based on which type of cabin they flew in—economy/basic economy, premium economy, and first/business class.

Participants were asked to rate their satisfaction with the service they received based on eight factors: aircraft, baggage handling, check-in, overall cost and fees, flight crew, in-flight services, and reservation process.

The category which saw the most significant drop in standards this year compared to last was costs and fees, which fell by 17 points. Again, rising inflation and fuel costs are likely important reasons, with average airfare prices increasing significantly over the last few months.

This year’s fall in customer satisfaction with costs and fees was most evident in the economy/basic economy segment, which fell by 19 points from 2022.

Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power, suggested that the steady rise in passenger numbers over the last 12 months has caused customer service to be stretched, thus resulting in lower overall satisfaction scores.

“If yield management were the only metric airlines needed to be successful in the long term, this would be a banner year for the industry because they are operating at peak economic efficiency,” said Taylor.

Photo: Courtesy of JetBlue

“From the customer perspective, however, that means planes are crowded, tickets are expensive, and flight availability is constrained. While these drawbacks have not yet put a dent in leisure travel demand, if this trend continues, travelers will reach a breaking point, and some airline brands may be damaged.”

Regarding airlines, JetBlue was the best-performing carrier for First and Business Class passengers, with an overall customer satisfaction score of 893. This was followed by Delta Air Lines in second place, with American Airlines being named the worst.

Best Airlines for First/Business Class:

Airline Score (Out of 1,000)
JetBlue 893
Delta 865
United 848
Alaska 833
Air Canada 830
American 826


For Premium Economy passengers, JetBlue was ranked as the second-best airline after Delta, which scored 848 points. United Airlines performed much worse in this segment, coming bottom of the pile with a score of 784.

Best Airlines for Premium Economy Class:

Airline Score (Out of 1,000)
Delta 848
JetBlue 840
Alaska 823
American 821
Air Canada 797
United 784

Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines was voted the best carrier for Economy and Basic Economy, with an overall satisfaction score of 827. Delta followed this in second place, and JetBlue in third.

On the other hand, Frontier Airlines was the worst airline for economy passengers, with a score of just 705.

Best Airlines for Economy/Basic Economy Class:

Airline Score (Out of 1,000)
Southwest 827
Delta 801
JetBlue 800
Alaska 781
WestJet 777
Allegiant 775
United 770
Air Canada 765
American 764
Spirit 727
Frontier 705