Americans Are Happier With Low-Cost Airlines Than Traditional Ones

Courtesy of Southwest AirlinesAmerican air travellers are happier with low-cost carriers like Frontier and Southwest Airlines than with their traditional counterparts like Delta, American, and United, a new report shows.

The annual J.D. Power & Associates North America Airline Satisfaction Study, released today, shows that the low-cost carrier segment scored 755 out of 1,000, beating the traditional segment by nearly 100 points.

Both sectors improved over their 2012 scores.

The gap is the result of differences in cost and service, said Jessica McGregor, senior manager of the global travel and hospitality practice at J.D. Power & Associates.

Lower fares make for more satisfied customers, especially on low-cost carriers JetBlue and Southwest, which make an extra effort to create an enjoyable travel experience. They are “doing a better job serving their passengers,” McGregor said in an interview with Business Insider.

Traditional carriers, which averaged 663 out of 1,000, were hurt by weak financial performance and recent mergers, which took a toll on in-flight performance.

Weak profits encourage airlines to combine forces, and going through that complicated process means “there’s going to be some hiccups along the way,” said McGregor.

Delta merged with Northwest Airlines in 2010. American Airlines and US Airways began the lengthy process of merging into the world’s biggest airline in February. 

But the improvement in Delta’s score over the past year shows there’s light at the end of the tunnel for the other traditional carriers.

The airline has showed “renewed focus,” McGregor said, and this year its score jumped by double digits in every category, for an overall 682 out of 1,000.

The J.D. Power & Associates study is based on surveys taken by nearly 12,000 travellers between April 2012 and March 2013. Only North American airlines ranked as major carriers by the US Department of Transportation were included.

Here are the scores for the low-cost carrier segment:

J.D. Power & Associates 2013 North America Airline Satisfaction Study

And for traditional carriers:

J.D. Power & Associates 2013 North America Airline Satisfaction Study

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