Airline passengers have a lot to deal with at the moment. We have heard how airlines are struggling to keep up with the increased demand for flights due to the fact that they downsized during the Covid restrictions. As a result, flights have been cancelled. To add to the misery of passengers, we have also heard about the uncertainty regarding the wearing of masks in the US which only serves to add confusion and stress to the flight. In the US, where the problems are more acute due to the uncertainty over masks, this has translated into more dissatisfaction among airline passengers.

According to the consumer research company J.D Power’s 2022 North American Airline Satisfaction Study, North American passenger satisfaction is declining across the board, as stated by CNN. The report surveyed 7004 passengers from March 2021 to March 2022. It examined how happy passengers were with aircraft, baggage, boarding check-in, cost and fees, flight crew, inflight services, and reservations.

Performance Rated Less than Last Year

It suggests that they are frustrated by the ticket cost, flight crew performance, and even the aircraft they were travelling on. This is the case regardless of whether they opt to travel by economy, premium economy, or business class. The study has found that overall North American airline passenger satisfaction is ranked at 798 out of 1000 points, 20 points less than in last year’s report.

It does appear, however, that certain airlines have come out top in the report. Economy passengers rated Southwest Airlines highest with 849 points. JetBlue came first in premium economy (851 points) as well as in first/ business class (878 points). Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power, said that the overall decline in satisfaction isn’t bad news and that airlines could learn from the results to improve their offerings. He said that if airlines find ways to manage these growing volumes while making some small adjustments to make their customers feel more valued, they should be able to manage the return to normal.

Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines gained the highest score for its Economy Class | © Boeing

Last Year’s results higher performance indicated that passengers were enjoying some of the unexpected benefits of flying during the pandemic; fewer passengers and emptier flights, thereby providing more space and, therefore less congestion. In addition, there was also greater ticket flexibility. Taylor has suggested that the comparison between those heights of Covid flights and travel today was behind the drop in satisfaction. He adds that fewer passengers meant more space on panes, less waiting in line and more attention from flight attendants.  However, he comments that this business model was simply not sustainable.

Undesirable Leftovers From Pandemic

Equally, the report does discuss certain areas that are leftovers from the pandemic that passengers would rather see the backoff. J.D. Power draws a link between the decrease in satisfaction in food and beverage provision in premium economy and business class and the fact that many airlines did not serve alcohol on board for much of last year.

JetBlue A321
JetBlue gained the highest score for its Premium Economy and Business Class © Diogo Da Conceicao/Travel Radar

As one can see, there has been a drop in the satisfaction of North American passengers with air travel. However, this appears to be largely because of the increase in service that was provided to customers as a result of fewer bookings during the pandemic. As Michael Taylor states such as situation was never going to continue as it would not be sustainable in the long term. However, we have heard about the difficulties airlines are having due to the surge in demand and therefore airlines have to be aware the passengers are not completely happy and try to improve the service by ensuring that crews are not overstretched. We need to wait to see how the airline industry responds.

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