Source: The Plain Dealer
Author: Shaina Cavazos
The Cleveland area's top airline carriers saw stagnant or declining customer satisfaction in 2012, according to a J.D. Power and Associates study released Wednesday.
Satisfaction fell 2 index points to 681, out of 1,000, despite improvements in scores for low-cost carriers, which have showed higher scores that traditional carriers for the third consecutive year.
"Passengers want it all, but they are not necessarily willing to pay for it all," Stuart Greif, vice president and general manager of the global travel and hospitality practice at J.D. Power and Associates, said in a statement. "Carriers often must make decisions for financial reasons that they know will negatively impact passenger satisfaction, and therein lies the conundrum."
Continental Airlines ranked fourth on a list of traditional network carriers, earning a score of 649 of 1,000 points. Continental fell one ranking and 12 points from 2011. United Airlines ranked sixth -- the same as last year -- with a score of 625, 15 points lower than in 2011. The average score for traditional carriers was 647 points.
United and Continental merged under United Continental Holdings Inc. in October 2010, but they did not merge operations and systems until April 2012, so they were considered separate for the purposes of the survey. The merged airlines received their Single Operating Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration in September 2011.
The J.D. Power study measured customer satisfaction in seven areas: cost and fees, in-flight services, boarding/deplaning/baggage, flight crew, aircraft, check-in and reservation. It covered travelers' experiences from May 2011 to April 2012.
Delta Air Lines was the only traditional carrier to move up in the rankings from 2011, advancing nine points and two spots to third place behind Alaska Airlines and Air Canada.
Low-cost carriers JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines topped their segment with scores of 776 and 770 points, respectively, well above the average score of 754. AirTran Airlines, the dominant carrier at Akron-Canton Airport, ranked fourth behind JetBlue, Southwest and WestJet.
Fees for checking bags remained at the top of customer complaints, with those paying to check bags reporting scores about 85 points lower on average. JetBlue and Southwest do not charge for the first checked bag.
However, the study found that 70 percent of customer satisfaction could be attributed to a carrier's employees and how the airline operates.
"Carriers that find innovative ways to provide passengers with greater control, save them time, reduce hassles and make the airline experience more enjoyable and comfortable will reap satisfaction benefits," Jessica McGregor, senior manager of the global travel and hospitality practice at J.D. Power and Associates, said in a statement.
The study cites increases in the use of mobile boarding passes and mobile check-in as one example. From 2011 to 2012, mobile check-in more than doubled from 5 percent to 11 percent. Customers who used mobile check-in reported satisfaction scores 5 to 67 points higher than customers using curbside, computer, kiosk or counter check-in.