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Low Cost Carriers Get High Marks

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The old, big carriers are supposed to provide the best service. But the low-cost carriers rank highest in customer satisfaction in J.D. Power and Associates’ annual survey of airline passengers.

In a report released Wednesday, J.D. Power says low-cost carriers scored 751 on a 1,000-point scale, up 10 points from last year. The score of traditional network carriers dropped to 651.

Stuart Greif, J.D. Power vice president, said the top-ranked low-cost carriers tend to shine in a number of areas, not just one or two.

„Clearly they’re doing something right that’s attracted customers to them,“ Greif said. „It’s not just kind of an aberration in satisfaction scores.“

In many cases, it’s the low-cost carriers that are showing innovation, he said. He cited No. 1-ranked JetBlue Airways Corp., which has placed monitors throughout its new terminal at New York’s Kennedy International Airport. Customers can order food and have it delivered where they’re seated, he said.

When No. 2 Southwest Airlines Co. „saw there were not enough plugs or comfortable seating in gate areas, they saw it as an opportunity to provide more comfortable seating with outlets at a number of gates,“ Greif said.

Among low-cost carriers, customers gave JetBlue a score of 773, followed by Dallas-based Southwest at 769. WestJet was third with 729.

Among the traditional network carriers, Alaska Airlines Inc. topped the list at 680. Air Canada was second with a score of 678. US Airways received the lowest score, 625.

J.D. Power said the study is based on responses from more than 13,500 passengers who flew on a major North American carrier between last July and April.

Grief, general manager of J.D. Power’s global travel and hospitality practice, said the low-cost carriers have been more profitable than many of the network carriers and could afford to invest more in their product.

One common denominator is that passengers don’t like fees and charges added to their tickets, the survey found.

But another finding is that passengers „express the highest levels of satisfaction with the check-in and reservation processes since 2006,“ J.D. Power said.

Greif said passenger surveys in past years found that passengers didn’t like the move from check-in counters to self-service kiosks, and from ticket counters or phone calls to do-it-yourself reservations.

„Passengers have adjusted their expectations during the past several years and now appear more satisfied with the convenience and speed that technology has enabled, while airlines benefit from reduced costs and greater efficiencies in these areas,“ Greif said.


Here’s how an annual survey of airline passengers scored airlines in customer satisfaction:

Airline / Score

JetBlue Airways / 773 Southwest Airlines / 769 WestJet / 729 AirTran Airways / 690 Frontier Airlines / 688 Alaska Airlines / 680 Air Canada / 678 Continental Airlines / 661 American Airlines / 656 Delta Air Lines / 650 United Airlines / 640 US Airways / 625


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