Southwest Ranks Highest For Customer Satisfaction In North America

Southwest Airlines has ranked highest for satisfaction in the annual J.D. Power survey looking at customers’ satisfaction with North American airlines. The airline ranked top for both short- and long-haul services on a range of factors rated by 10,100 passengers.

Southwest takes off from DIA
Southwest Airlines ranked top in a 2020 survey regarding customer satisfaction. Photo: Getty Images

At the start of the year, data analytics firm Cirium released its annual punctuality figures. These showed that in North America, Delta is the most punctual carrier. Indeed, Delta was ranked as the third most punctual carrier in the world. Southwest only ranked third for punctuality in the US. However, punctual flights don’t automatically lead to the best customer service, as was shown in this week’s J.D. Power survey results.

Southwest comes top

Southwest claimed the top spot in both the short-haul and long-haul categories. Like all of the airlines measured, however, the major American low-cost carrier ranked higher for short-haul flights. The airline scored 839 and 826 for short- and long-haul, respectively.

Ryan Green, Senior Vice President, and Chief Marketing Officer, Southwest Airlines, said:

“We are extremely honored to be named the No. 1 airline in North America by J.D. Power. Our goal is to always put the Customer first, and that shows through in our innovation, low-fares, and of course, from our Employees. Our Team Members work hard every day to stand above our competition and be a champion for our Customers.”

Some people expect that because fares are far lower on the low-cost carriers, customer satisfaction will be lower. After all, surely the service is worse? However, this doesn’t seem to be the case as JetBlue, another low-cost focused carrier, clinched the second spot in each category.

Southwest Airlines, JD Power, Customer Satisfaction
Southwest came top in both categories. Graph: Simple Flying | Data: J.D. Power

Spirit Airlines came last when long-haul flights were taken into consideration. Meanwhile, Frontier ranked lowest for both.

Major airlines sit in the middle

The three major US legacy carriers mainly sat in the middle of the bunch in terms of scores. Indeed, Delta came third in terms of long-haul flights, and fourth for short-haul. American Airlines came second in terms of the big three with a score of 779 for short-haul and 770 for long-haul. Both scores placed the airline at 6 out of 10 for both categories.

United’s scores produced a bit of an interesting result showing that long-haul isn’t comparable to short-haul. The U.S. carrier scored higher for short-haul at 760 than long-haul at 759. However, the airline’s higher short-haul score gave it a ranking of penultimate place, while the lower long-haul score secured its 7th place in the long-haul table.

United NFL player sexual assault
United scored worst out of the big three legacy carriers. Photo: Getty Images

What did J.D. Power class as key findings?

According to J.D. Power, during the current aviation climate, the value was a key differentiator. The data analytics company highlighted that change and cancellation fees, given the current situation, had a significant impact on satisfaction.

Unsurprisingly, airlines that were open and honest regarding the steps taken to safeguard passengers against the virus also scored well. 38% of passengers said information on cleaning, and sanitization was important. While 37% believed that daily destination updates were important.

Some slightly less unexpected factors that were important to passengers were the friendliness of the staff and getting the basics right. After all, rude staff and bad service are likely to be remembered by customers when future bookings are being made.

Which North American airline leaves you feeling most satisfied? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.