It’ll be imperative that airlines continue to be transparent and win travelers’ trust to be successful in a post-pandemic world, according to the J.D. Power 2020 North America Airline Satisfaction Study released on Wednesday.
The latest research shows that North American carriers entered 2020 with some of the highest customer satisfaction scores ever recorded before being undone by the COVID-19 crisis. Nonetheless, beloved budget carrier Southwest Airlines fared the best in terms of customer satisfaction for both long-haul—earning a score of 826 on a 1,000-point scale—and short-haul (839) flights.
JetBlue was a close second for both long-haul (823) and short-haul (833). Delta Air Lines (810) finished third for long-haul service while Alaska Airlines (828) rounded out the top three for short-haul flights.
The study also found that when it comes to customer perception of value for money, the industry average is 5.68 on a 7-point scale. However, the highest-performing airline rates an average of 6.33. This trend points to airlines’ waiving of change and cancellation fees being paramount for success in the months and perhaps years ahead.
Moving forward, travelers will likely lean toward airlines that inform them of their specific cleaning/sanitization efforts (38 percent) and those which provide daily updates on the state of the pandemic in their destination (37 percent).
Airlines also stand to benefit immensely from improving staff scores and nailing the basics, according to J.D. Power’s research, which finds that passenger satisfaction scores related to courtesy and friendliness of the crew and staff knowledge have been improving consistently in recent years.
What’s more, passengers most often choose an airline because it offers a direct flight to their destination (55 percent); they had a good experience in the past (47 percent) or they are a rewards program member (42 percent).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, price is the leading reason travelers don’t select their preferred airline (40 percent).
“Airline success in the post-COVID-19 era will hinge on a combination of building consumer confidence and operational flexibility with changing schedules and routes,” said Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power, in a statement. “Airlines have a tremendous reputation for safety. That will be even more critical as passengers look to airlines for detailed and specific information about what’s being done to keep them safe.”
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