Travel & Leisure

The Airlines Are Improving—No, Really!

By Lola Augustine Brown


With all the recent reports of airlines bumping—or dragging—paying customers off of overbooked flights, you’d expect that the reputation of airlines and air travel is at an all-time low. Instead, travellers polled for the 2017 J.D. Power North American Airline Satisfaction Survey reported higher levels of satisfaction than ever before in the survey’s 13-year history.

Researchers say the reasons for the boost in satisfaction—levels of which have risen steadily over the past five years—include lower fares, fewer delays, fewer lost bags, and perhaps most surprising, “the lowest bump rate ever recorded.” The average cost of a plane ticket in North America dropped 8.5% last year—to $349 US. Improvements were cited for both budget and conventional airlines.

The market research company J.D. Power surveyed 11,015 business and leisure travellers who’d flown on North American airlines between March 2016 and March 2017.

One area that lost the airlines points was a rise in reported problems with overstuffed overhead bins, and interestingly, younger travellers complained about lack of bin space more than older travellers did.

And the good news for airlines came with a catch: J.D. Power reports that they still rank among the lowest scoring of all the service industries the company surveys, lagging far behind hotels and car rental firms. Air travel may be improving, but there’s still work to be done, especially by Canadian airlines: both Air Canada and WestJet scored badly in the survey. Air Canada scored lowest among major carriers, and WestJet scored second lowest in the budget category.

Alaska Airlines was No. 1 on the list—for the 10th year—with Delta ranking second, and among discount airlines, Southwest took top spot from last year’s No. 1, JetBlue.


Photo: iStock/GlobalStock.