For the aviation industry, it’s been a bumpy road back to whatever we’re now considering normal, post-pandemic. There’s been lots of highs, plenty of lows and even a calamity or two.
One of the main problems facing airlines is the rising cost of jet fuel, as well as supply chain issues that constrict the parts needed to make new aircraft. This month, two of the main aircraft manufacturers, Airbus ( (EADSF) ) and Boeing ( (BA) – Get Free Report), announced they would be cutting back on the amount of new planes they were projected to deliver to American Airlines (AAL) – Get Free Report and JetBlue (JBLU) – Get Free Report, amongst other airlines.
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But the main issue is that airlines have been dealing with a pilot shortage, as a number of pilots and other essential workers either retired or took a buy out during the pandemic. Airlines have been struggling to recruit and train enough talent to replace them. Because airlines were receiving federal assistance, they weren’t allowed to lay anyone off, but a buyout was a work around.
Depending on your point of view, and the amount of sympathy you have for airlines, this move was either a necessary cost-saving measure, or a short-sighted business decision that is leading to long-term headaches, and another example of the argument that making judgment calls based around quarterly reports can often hinder long-term growth.
It certainly can be argued that, in general, the traveling public isn’t too understanding of the industry’s current woes, as they recently gave airlines in general a bad grade in terms of overall satisfaction in a J.D. Power report titled North America Airline Satisfaction Study.
Customer Satisfaction? Not Looking So Good For The Airlines
People are really mad at airlines right now, according to the report, which notes that “overall passenger satisfaction declines, driven largely by cost of airfare.”
Overall passenger satisfaction fell 7 points to 791 (on a 1,000-point scale) from a year ago. This is the second consecutive year of declining passenger satisfaction, following a 22-point decline reported in 2022.
As pilots became harder to find and jet fuel prices rise, the cost of plane tickets goes up, along with customer discontent.
But what’s bad for customers is good for airline companies. Airlines are projected to earn a net profit of $4.7 billion this year, according to the Air Transport Association.
“If yield management were the only metric airlines needed to be successful in the long term, this would be a banner year for the industry because they are operating at peak economic efficiency,” said Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power, in a statement.
“From the customer perspective, however, that means planes are crowded, tickets are expensive and flight availability is constrained. While these drawbacks have not yet put a dent in leisure travel demand, if this trend continues, travelers will reach a breaking point and some airline brands may be damaged.”
But it’s not all bad news for the airlines. The survey ranked them on eight factors (in alphabetical order): aircraft; baggage; boarding; checkin; cost and fees; flight crew; in-flight services; and reservations. They were also classified by three segments, first/business, premium economy and economy/basic economy.
Here’s how it all broke down:
While overall satisfaction is meh, first/business class passengers’s satisfaction scores actually rose 9 points year over year. The gains, the report notes, were partly because of food and beverage scores as many services were reinstated for upper class cabins in the post-pandemic period.Speaking of food, while many airlines cut back on the amount of food and beverages they offered in 2021, people are happy that the restrictions are lifted, as satisfaction with food and beverage is up 12 points overall from 2022The segment hit the hardest were low cost carriers, which are famous for offering you almost nothing and then asking you to pay for anything extra. Satisfaction with cost and fees in the economy/basic economy segment is down 19 points from a year ago.In terms of the airlines, JetBlue Airways ranks highest in customer satisfaction in the first/business segment for a second consecutive year, with a score of 893. Delta Air Lines (DAL) – Get Free Report (865) ranks second and United Airlines (UAL) – Get Free Report (848) comes in at a hit third.Delta Air Lines ranks highest in customer satisfaction in the premium economy segment with a score of 848, while JetBlue Airways (840) ranks second and Alaska Airlines (823) ranks third.Southwest Airlines (LUV) – Get Free Report, surprisingly, ranks highest in customer satisfaction in the economy/basic economy segment for a second consecutive year, with a score of 827. (Maybe people are over the December meltdown?) Delta Air Lines (801) ranks second and JetBlue Airways (800) ranks third.
The survey was culled from responses from 7,774 passengers who flew on a major North America airline within the past month of completing a survey.