CHICAGO — United Airlines ranked worst among traditional carriers in customer satisfaction in a new J.D. Power survey, but the carrier improved its scores from last year.
Alaska Airlines made its passengers the happiest among the five traditional carriers in the study for the ninth straight year. It scored 751 on a 1,000-point scale.
Delta Air Lines ranked second among traditional carriers, with a score of 725, and improved in all of the qualities that J.D. Power measures.
In order of importance, J.D. Power considers: cost and fees; in-flight services; boarding, deplaning and baggage; flight crew; aircraft; check-in; and reservations.
The scores of American Airlines and United were 693 and 675, respectively.
United also ranked last in the prior study, although its score has improved by 10 points.
Satisfaction with airlines’ costs and fees continued to improve. J.D Power said that, while lower fares are a factor in improved customer satisfaction, travelers seem to have also become resigned to paying baggage fees or for ancillary features, such as extra legroom.
In-flight services remained the lowest-scoring factor, although those marks have improved.
“We see satisfaction rising across all touch points of the passenger experience,” Rick Garlick, head of the global travel and hospitality practice at J.D. Power, said in the report. “Airlines are making positive strides by adding value to products and services with newer and cleaner planes, better in-flight services, improving on-time arrivals and bumping fewer passengers from their flights.”
Among the four discount carriers assessed, JetBlue Airways had the highest ranking for the 11th straight year. Its score was 790, down 11 points.
Frontier Airlines had the worst score, 662, among low-cost carriers.
J.D. Power’s North America airline satisfaction study measures contentment of both business and leisure passengers.
For the first time in the study’s history, satisfaction among business travelers exceeded that of leisure travelers.
The study is based on responses from 10,348 passengers who flew on a major North American airline between March 2015 and March 2016.
A separate study released last month also showed that United’s passengers are increasingly satisfied with its service, though several major rivals are still more highly regarded.
Among nine airlines in that study, United ranked sixth, with a score of 68 out of a possible 100, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index Travel Report. United’s score last year was 60.
Other legacy carriers, American and Delta, edged it out with scores of 72 and 71, respectively.
Scores overall for the airline industry improved, according to the report, whose issuance coincided with Transportation Department figures showing a drop in domestic airfares.
JetBlue and Southwest Airlines had the highest scores, at 80. Lowest-scoring was Spirit Airlines, at 62.
Scores overall for the airline industry were up 4.3 percent to 72, the report said.
A third study, released in April, ranked Virgin America tops among 13 airlines in a review that looks at such criteria as on-time performance, rate of involuntary denied boardings, and mishandled bags.
The Airline Quality Rating is a joint project of researchers at Wichita State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Industry performance improved slightly after a down year in 2014, the rating said.
United ranked eighth, a one-place improvement.
Spirit ranked last.