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Customer satisfaction with North American airlines generally improved between 2009 and 2010, according to a recent study conducted by J.D. Power and Associates.

Overall Satisfaction Hits 3-Year High
Among passengers who flew on a major North American airline between April 2009 and April 2010, overall customer satisfaction has improved to a three-year high of 673 on a 1,000-point scale, improving by 15 points from 2009. J.D. Power analysis indicates the improvements in the 2010 study were driven by increases in satisfaction with cost and fees and in-flight services.

The study also suggests that while passengers may dislike add-on fees, they are gradually starting to accept them. In turn, those fees may be having a less pronounced impact on satisfaction as passengers recalibrate their expectations.

The “2010 North America Airline Satisfaction Study” measures overall customer satisfaction based on performance in seven measures (in order of importance): cost and fees; flight crew; in-flight services; aircraft; boarding/deplaning/baggage; check-in; and reservation. Carriers are ranked in two segments: traditional network and low-cost. Traditional network carriers are defined as airlines that operate multi-cabin aircraft and use multiple airport hubs, while low-cost carriers are airlines that operate single-cabin aircraft with typically lower fares.

Alaska Airlines Leads Traditional Carriers
Among traditional network carriers, Alaska Airlines ranks highest in the segment for a third consecutive year, and performs particularly well in six of the seven measures: flight crew; aircraft; boarding/deplaning/baggage; check-in; cost and fees; and reservation.

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Continental Airlines and American Airlines, respectively, follow Alaska Airlines in the rankings. Continental Airlines performs particularly well in the in-flight services measure.

JetBlue Tops Low-Cost Carriers
For a fifth consecutive year, JetBlue Airways ranks highest in the low-cost carrier segment. JetBlue Airways performs particularly well in two of the seven measures: aircraft and in-flight services. Following JetBlue in the segment rankings are Southwest Airlines and WestJet, respectively.

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Southwest Airlines performs particularly well in the cost and fees and reservation measures. WestJet performs particularly well in the check-in; boarding/deplaning/baggage; and flight crew measures.

JetBlue Earns Customer Loyalty
In addition to taking top marks from J.D. Power, JetBlue was the leading airline in the 2010 Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Index. Brand Keys Founder/President Robert Passikoff said this year’s Index results demonstrate consumers are most interested in brands that offer value for the dollar, and not just low price.

“The consumer value equation has shifted dramatically from ‘price-value’ to ‘value-for-dollar,'” said Passikoff. “The undeniable fact is that consumers looking for value have been forced to look beyond mere primacy of product, price and service. With increased standardization and decreased product differentiation, a real brand can serve up the value consumers expect.”

About the Data: The 2010 North America Airline Satisfaction Study measures customer satisfaction of both business and leisure passengers with major North American carriers. The study is based on responses from more than 12,300 passengers who flew on a major North American airline between April 2009 and April 2010. The study was fielded between May 2009 and April 2010.

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