Delta tops 2021 North America Airline Satisfaction Study

There were fewer passengers on airplanes last year, but the few who flew said it was a better experience.

The J.D. Power 2021 North America Airline Satisfaction Study shows overall passenger satisfaction was up considerably in the past year as carriers waved change fees and flight crews explained and enforced new safety protocols.

And no carrier did that better than Delta Air Lines, Power reports. For the first time since 1995, the Atlanta-based carrier topped the survey. Southwest Airlines was second, and Alaska Airlines ranked third.

In the 2020 survey, Delta ranked third, with Southwest topping the list and JetBlue in second place.

“The airline industry adapted to a most unusual year by simplifying ticketing processes, waiving change fees and baggage fees, which were key to persuading people to fly during the pandemic,” said Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power. “Airline personnel rose to meet the challenges of a drastically altered travel environment. Maintaining that level of flexibility and recognition of individual passenger needs will be a strategic advantage for airlines that want to set themselves apart in passenger satisfaction as travel volumes start to recover.”

Delta scored particularly well on the performance of its flight attendants and pilots. Overall, it was the top performer in four of the eight factors evaluated in the study. (The survey has passengers rank airlines in the following categories: aircraft, baggage, boarding, check-in, cost and fees, flight crew, in-flight services, and reservations.)

Because airline passenger traffic was off by 60% last year, the survey spoke with only 2,309 passengers, versus the usual 10,000-plus.

Our mission to make business better is fueled by readers like you. To enjoy unlimited access to our journalism, subscribe today.