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Alaska Airlines, Delta, Southwest make J.D. Power’s best airlines for 2017

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by: Kelly Yamanouchi, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Global marketing research company J.D. Power has released its list of the best airlines in the country for the J.D. Power 2017 North America Airline Satisfaction Study.

Alaska Airlines has ranked highest for 10 years in a row among traditional airline carriers. Delta Air Lines came in second place.

Among low-cost carriers, Southwest Airlines came in first, followed by JetBlue in second place.

“It’s impossible to think about airline customer satisfaction without replaying the recent images of a passenger being dragged from a seat,” Michael Taylor, travel practice lead at J.D. Power, said in a written statement in a Wednesday news release. But, he said, overall “the airline industry has been making marked improvements in customer satisfaction across a variety of metrics, from ticket cost to flight crew.”

A decline in airfares in 2016 helped drive satisfaction with cost and fees, according to J.D. Power.

Taylor added, however, that “airlines have significant room for improvement” and the airline industry is in the bottom tier of most service industries.

The J.D. Power study measures passenger satisfaction among business and leisure travelers based on a survey of about 11,000 passengers who flew between March 2016 and March 2017. In order of importance, it looks at costs and fees; in-flight services, aircraft, boarding/deplaning/baggage, flight crew, check-in and reservations.

In the traditional carrier segment, Alaska and Delta came in ahead of American in third place, United in fourth place and Air Canada in fifth place.

But both Southwest and JetBlue scored higher than all of the “traditional carriers,” including Delta and Alaska.

It’s the first time Southwest ranked highest in the 13 years J.D. Power has conducted the study, after JetBlue ended an 11-year run in the No. 1 spot.

Ultra low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines came in last place in the airline satisfaction study.

The study showed that some pain points for travelers stand out: Problems with overhead bin space have become more common, according to the study. Younger travelers are more likely to have a problem with overhead storage than older travelers, the study showed.

Issues with airline crews, staff and “attitude” are not the most common problems, according to the J.D. Power study.

Instead, the most widely reported issues are with seat comfort, followed by issues with aircraft lavatory cleanliness. With planes running fuller than they did 10 years ago, passengers are “more likely to find themselves in a middle seat and less likely to have an empty seat next to them,” according to J.D. Power.

Instances of airlines bumping passengers and denying them boarding have declined, according to the study, but “they have the greatest negative influence on overall satisfaction.”

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