Report Card Time: Are You Satisfied with Airlines?


It’s report card time. The results of two annual studies on airline satisfaction – Consumer Reports and J.D. Power – have been released this week. It’s not like our experienced FlyerTalk community doesn’t have its own research and opinions, but let’s take a look.

Virgin America (which might be greater than the sum of its parts) topped the customer satisfaction list at Consumer Reports. They got honors in baggage handling, which I guess is like honors in phys. ed. But passengers also liked the leather seats and in-flight entertainment.

Spirit Airlines, who sit in the back row in every class, got the lowest grades. Sure, the fares are low, but cramped seats and the Chernobyl of extra charges (from booking a flight to carryon bags) make them the least popular. I’m thinking probably they’re the most likely to dropout. Not even Southwest wants to school them and give them an allowance, like they do with Allegiant Air.

In Spirit Airlines’ defense, CEO Ben Baldanza (using no-added-value-required logic) told morning television that the survey should have asked, “Where do you get the lowest price.” For Ben, that’s his Gettysburg Address. Well, Ben, you get what you pay for.

Consumer Reports based their survey on 16,663 subscribers who flew 31,732 domestic flights. They rated the full sociological pageant: check-in, cabin crews, cabin cleanliness, seating, baggage handling and in-flight entertainment.

Southwest Airlines and JetBlue got high marks for baggage handling, check-in ease and cabin crew service. A lot of airlines, including Southwest, scored low on in-flight entertainment. Like organic chemistry in college, in-flight entertainment was the weed-out class for most airlines. (Note to airlines: Imagine free Wi-Fi.)

Interesting how the big legacy carriers are so far down the list.

Here are the Consumer Reports survey results:

  1. Virgin America
  2. Southwest Airlines
  3. JetBlue Airways (tied with Southwest)
  4. Hawaiian Airlines
  5. Alaska Airlines
  6. Frontier Airlines
  7. Delta Airlines
  8. US Airways
  9. American Airlines
  10. United Airlines
  11. Spirit Airlines

Over at J.D Power survey respondents liked Alaska Airlines and JetBlue. Their study ranks North American carriers (Consumer Reports did not include Canada. Neither survey mentions Mexican or Caribbean/Latin American carriers. What would that do to the bell-shaped curve? Ouch.)

They report overall satisfaction improved to 695 on a 1,000-point scale, up 14 points from last year. (As a kid, 69 percent would have grounded me.)

Again, what’s interesting is that low-cost carriers outperform legacy carriers.

Here are the top six airlines (with scores out of 1,000) according to J.D. Power:

  1. JetBlue  (787)
  2. Southwest Airlines  (770)
  3. Alaska Airline  (717)
  4. WestJet  (714)
  5. Delta (682)
  6. Air Canada (671)


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Comments (Showing 2 of 2)

  • starflyer at 1:16am May 25, 2013

    I just don’t see how Southwest rates so high, all the other airlines must be really terrible. Southwest’s new seating is cramped and uncomfortable to anyone with moderately long legs. On board WiFi performance is abysmal, I don’t understand why anyone would pay and then not ask for their money back. At least you’re guaranteed a 737 and no mini-jet or turbo-prop.

  • Bradhattan at 3:07am August 21, 2013

    Should the ranking go: 1, 2 , 3, 3, 5 etc.?

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