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When You Fly Far You Won’t Care That Your Ticket Was Cheap

When You Fly Far You Won’t Care That Your Ticket Was Cheap
Jeff Edwards

Cheap flights don’t make happy passengers, especially when those passengers are flying far. A new J.D. Power study found that, while price is always an important factor, passenger happiness is more closely related to inflight entertainment and dining options. 

Reputation Matters

For most domestic air travelers, price is still king when it comes to booking a trip, but the just-released “Airline International Destination Satisfaction Study” from J.D. Power reveals that for long-haul international passengers, on-time performance and customer service trump cost in most cases. The survey found that experienced travelers are more likely to book travel based on an airline’s reputation than simply based on who has the cheapest ticket prices.

“A low fare may be the best way to attract a first-time international passenger, but retaining passengers on routes to Europe and Asia is all about delighting customers with great in-flight experiences,” J.D. Power Travel Intelligence Lead Michael Taylor explained in a statement unveiling the study. “One of the most powerful ways to do that is with food and beverage offerings that are unique to the airline’s culture and that manage to deliver flavor at altitude, where it has been proven that taste buds grow less sensitive.”

The report ranked carriers on nine criteria including in-flight services, cost, and fees, equipment, crews, check-in, boarding, immigration, baggage and ease of reservations. Those surveyed said that good customer service, convenient scheduling, the airlines’ reputation, and ticket prices were most likely to determine which carrier they fly and how satisfied they were with the overall experience. Passengers rated price and features such as wifi, free checked bags, and non-stop service much higher when choosing domestic airlines. International and domestic passengers agree on at least one point—inflight dining could benefit from improvement (even on JAL it seems).

So Does Food

Inflight dining was the number one determining factor in how highly passengers rated international airlines. Perhaps not surprisingly, carriers known for their culinary creativity ranked top in the survey. Turkish Airlines was ranked highest in customer satisfaction among airlines serving transatlantic routes. Virgin Atlantic was ranked second among all carriers flying between Europe and North America. Delta Air Lines was the top-ranked U.S. airline tied with British Airways in third place. Meanwhile, Japan Airlines ranked highest in customer satisfaction among passengers traveling between Asia and North America. Delta was the second-highest-rated airline among the 6,287 air travelers surveyed for the study and Korean Air was rated a close third.

[Image: Turkish Airlines]

View Comments (7)


  1. dddc

    January 14, 2020 at 5:02 am

    There seems to be an inverse proportion of a flight’s length when food and IFE become more relevant to a flight. For me, it’s 2 hours, but it seems airlines do it at 5 hours or so.

    Etihad made a big mistake last summer when it “enhanced” its meal tray to single meal box delivered instead. Passengers complained they were hungry and it spread to those that hadn’t booked. They already had a bad reputation for the narrow and hard 787 seats so this didn’t help. They had to revert back to the regular meals that passengers expected on a long haul flight. Charging for snacks also caused unhappy passengers.

  2. dddc

    January 14, 2020 at 5:07 am

    Also it would be nice if the authors would add “International Destinations from the USA” in the title as it neglects the rest of the world routes, where results may differ and good airlines may miss out out on publicity this article generates.

  3. geminigirl789

    January 14, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    How in the world did British Airways come third? They’ve gone so far downhill since Alex Cruz took over, they’re below Norwegian in most people’s view these days!

  4. Gynob001

    January 15, 2020 at 6:56 am

    JD Powers study is very questionable. I don’t think most Asian flyers even know of JD Powers or their surveys. With millions of flyers, they don’t indicate sample size. It is foolish to make ticket purchase decisions based on these surveys. In my opinion,
    1. Meals break the monotony of the flight. I would rank the airlines that give frequent refreshments on long haul flights the best.
    2. Economy seats are crummy regardless of the airlines.
    3. Customer service? In my opinion Delta might rank among the best.
    4. FAs-they are all either good or impressive. Occasionally, you see in regional carriers, FA hiding behind the curtain reading a magazine.
    5. I hate when the pilot announces turbulence as an excuse for no meals! It is interesting that turbulence occurs in flights between 1 and two hours duration!

  5. chadbag

    January 15, 2020 at 8:08 am

    This is so true. We fly to Japan every other year as a family of 4. Cost is important with 4 people but the service and experience greatly affect who we book with. After 2 times with United and the horrible, cramped planes, nonexistent IFE (they moved to that streaming crap with half the bandwidth necessary for the number of passengers so it was basically useless on an 11 hour flight), etc. I will never fly United again overseas. If I book a United ticket (or any US carrier for that matter), I make sure the actual flight is served by their codeshare partners. Ones flown by United (and in general any US carrier) on their own aircraft will only be booked when there is no other choice.

    I am going to Europe with my daughter this summer. We booked Air France as I don’t trust Delta any longer for long flights. (My wife took a Delta flight to Japan last year at the last minute to see her sick mother and said the experience was not as good as our other experiences going to Japan on non-US carriers).

  6. vincewy

    January 15, 2020 at 9:53 am

    Wait, in Asia Singapore Airlines isn’t on the list and Delta is number 2? Also in JL, portions are very small even in J. Something is wrong here.

  7. kkua

    January 17, 2020 at 8:21 am

    Mono-lingual Americans will stick with what they feel comfortable: Anglo speaking airlines. JL lucked out because they are the first N.Asian country crossing the Pacific (it’s all about perception). Most Americans don’t know where CX is based, nor will they know SQ operates 5th freedom flights to intermediate stops before reaching SIN. The ME3 have exposure with the population in the sub-Indian continent (hence the large skewed preference).

    The sample size for the survey are not from major metropolitan areas (educated, well heeled or mobile crowds). JDPower survey is a biased gauge.

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