Satisfaction with airlines reaches record high

With fares remaining stable, customer satisfaction with the airline industry is at a record high, according to an annual study released Wednesday.

On a 1,000-point scale, customer satisfaction reached 712, a 17-point increase from the same study last year when the previous record of 695 was established, according to the 2014 airline satisfaction study by J.D. Power.

The study found that the greatest influence on overall satisfaction came in the category of costs and fees, whose satisfaction score improved to 642 from 618 last year.

Fares remained relatively unchanged in 2013, up only 1.6 percent compared with the previous year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Meanwhile, the nation’s major airlines collected $6.5 billion from baggage fees and charges to change reservations, an increase of about 8 percent from 2012, according to the bureau. Revenue from other fees for onboard food, entertainment and seat upgrades are not reported to the federal agency.

Still, a similar satisfaction study released last month found that customers ranked airlines below most other industries, beating only subscription TV services and the Internal Revenue Service.

The higher satisfaction numbers may suggest that fliers have grown accustomed to the fees.

“It isn’t that passengers are satisfied with fees, it’s that they are simply less dissatisfied because they realize that fees have become a way of life with air travel,” said Rick Garlick, global travel and hospitality practice lead at J.D. Power.

The study was based on surveys taken of 11,370 passengers who have flown in North America in the past year.

Among traditional carriers, Seattle-based Alaska Airline had the highest satisfaction score of 737, a 20-point improvement from 2013. Delta Air Lines ranked second with a score of 693. US Airways came in last among the major carriers with a score of 656, according to the study.

Among low-cost carriers, JetBlue Airways ranked the highest for the ninth consecutive year with a score of 789, up two points from 2013. Southwest Airlines ranked second with a score of 778, an 8-point improvement.

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