North American Airlines customer satisfaction falls to a 4-year low

J D Powers latest survey (issued June 30, 2009) ranks the Customer Experience of 13 Airlines.

An indicator of the trend to ‘Outside-In’ business models is the performance of companies delivering consumer oriented products and services (B2C) and no less so than the airline sector.

The survey, which queried nearly 13,000 travelers, measured airlines in seven categories: cost and fees; flight crew; in-flight services; aircraft; boarding/deplaning/baggage; check-in; and reservation.

“Any improvements in customer satisfaction are being offset by passenger displeasure with cutbacks on in-flight amenities, increases in fees and attitudes of flight crews,” says Dale Haines, senior director of the travel practice at J.D. Power and Associates, in a statement.

We have taken J D Powers data and with additional commentary combined results from the latest survey to present a complete picture of airline performance across the sector, ranked in terms of the customers importance.


J D Powers separates the report into two – traditional carriers and low cost airlines. We think that distinction is no longer as relevant to the customer experience as, for instance ‘low cost carrier’ Jet Blue offer a fully and complete range of services, on a par if not better than most regarded as ‘traditional’.

In fact ‘traditional’ service is a poor cousin of much of the ‘low cost carriers’. Also the distinction of traditional carriers having multicabin is lost on the vast majority of travelers, as for instance several carriers only additional facility in a higher class is to offer a ‘free’ drink and newspaper. Much has been said about the failure of tradtional carriers to effectively manage the customer expectation with feedback such as this experience is not unusual (thanks to Vicky Cartwright, e2e Technologies Ltd; Broadcast Media Consultant).

It is reassuring to see the data represented as the customer experience, rather than a set of activities. This distinction should be applied to all consumer surveys, measuring as it does the customers view of the process.

Additional steps could be taken to extend the scope of the actual survey to include the total customer experience, for instance the airport services and facilities, the transportation systems, the ease of access and egress from the airports. That actual customer experience is a big part of the consumer decision making process of which airline to fly.

Infact more progressive airlines now consider that complete customer experience as their process, and while they can’t own every aspect of it they can partner and control it. For instance Southwest’s partnering with various hotel chains to provide a unified check-out/check-in service is an improvement to customer service while at the same time reducing Southwests costs and growing future revenues.

As consumers it is the smart thing for airlines to do and changes the customer expectation of others. This lifting of the bar places further pressure on the inside-out carriers who continue to see a drift of passengers to a complete offering.

These aspects of travel are making their customers lives easier, simpler and more successful.

Here’s the consolidated table combining the results produced by J D Power.

In summary Alaska Airlines ranked highest for a second consecutive year. JetBlue once again performed well, topping the low cost carriers followed closely by Southwest.

It is worth noting that all top five performers are ‘outside-in’** companies.

More on this theme soon!

See the complete J D Power report here.

**New to the distinction of ‘inside-out’ to ‘outside-in’?
Here’s a quick summary provided by BP Group LI Manager, David Mottershead

An outside in process is one which has been created to successfully deliver a customer outcome and has been designed from the customer’s perspective. ��This process is likely to reduce the number of moments of truth or interactions with the organisation and is “doing the right things”, in terms of delivering the process as part of an overall customer success strategy. ��

An inside out process may be thought of as one which also provides the goods or services to the customer, but the process to provide these are viewed from the organisation’s perspective. It may be “doing things right” but not necessarily “doing the right things”. ��It may seek to improve the customer’s experience, but not necessarily aligned with delivering a successful customer outcome, or what the customer really wants.

>David Mottershead, CPP (Certified Process Professional) – Creative Digital Technology (Australia)