Survey: Consumers Happier with Airlines Despite Fees, Recession

After three years of steady declines, consumers are feeling more upbeat about airlines despite paying more for items such as checked bags and extra legroom, the latest survey from J.D. Power and Associates shows. Overall customer satisfaction with airlines in North America has increased notably, with 10 of 12 airlines improving from 2009, according to the marketing information firm's 2010 North America Airline Satisfaction Study released Tuesday.

For a fifth consecutive year, JetBlue Airways (JBLU) ranked highest in the low-cost carrier segment, followed by Southwest Airlines (LUV) and WestJet. In the traditional carrier category, Alaska Airlines (ALK) flew higher than the rest for its third year in a row, followed by Continental Airlines (CAL) and American Airlines (AMR). Delta Air Lines (DAL), Air Canada, United Airlines (UAUA) and US Airways (LCC) rounded out the bottom of the rankings, all finishing at or below the industry average.

"That overall satisfaction with airlines has improved is particularly notable in light of a difficult economic year, in which add-on fees have continued to proliferate and two major airlines have merged," said Stuart Greif, vice president and general manager of the global travel and hospitality practice at J.D. Power and Associates.

The study found that overall customer satisfaction with airlines in 2010 has improved to a three-year high of 673 on a 1,000-point scale, improving by 15 points from 2009. The improvement is driven by increases in satisfaction with cost and fees and in-flight services in 2010, compared with 2009, the survey said.

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