Flier Satisfaction Up First Time in Four Years
J.D. Power and Associates' just-released press release (yesterday), reported the first increase in customer satisfaction with North American airlines after three years of straight decline.
The J.D. Power and Associates North American Airline Satisfaction Report said the increase in customer satisfaction was especially noteworthy in light of a very difficult economy that has travelers in a critical mind set, as well as the addition of onerous fees and the merger of two airlines.
Still, Stuart Greif, vice president and general manager of global practices and hospitality at the research giant, said the improvement is real, driven by increases in satisfaction with cost and fees and in-flight services in 2010, compared with 2009.
The reason for the uptick in customer satisfaction, however, may have as much to do with the fact that fewer people are traveling, resulting in fewer flights in the air and therefore a badly-needed increase in on-time arrivals and departures.
Greif also reasoned that as more and more airlines charge fees for bags, fewer and fewer people are checking them, resulting in fewer lost or damaged luggage complaints, always a big issue.
Regarding the many add-on fees, both Greif and Northeastern University professor Harlan Platt suggest passengers are getting used to them, or in the words of Platt, the study may simply show that there are no new gripes. "You develop a tolerance for pain."
Still, some airlines are taking notable steps in the right direction . The Boston Globe reports that JetBlue has introduced a hand-held device that enables fight attendants to provide passenger feedback directly to the company. Whether or not anyone actually listens and responds is another question, but undoubtedly the action is consistent with New Media's emphasis on assuring customers that their comments will be listened to.
Among the traditional carriers, Alaska Airlines and Continental ranked in the top two categories for Customer Satisfaction, with American, Delta, Air Canada and United Airlines tied for third place.
One interesting but unsurprising result of the study: Customers assigned to a middle seat have a 16 point lower "satisfaction rate" than customers in a window or aisle seat.
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