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A Southwest 737 MAX in Las Vegas (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Southwest Airlines Tops 2020 J.D. Power Rankings

The J.D. Power awards for airline customer satisfaction were announced on May 27, with Southwest Airlines taking the top spot in both rankings. The Dallas-based carrier was rated highest in both the long-haul and short-haul categories, besting the likes of Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue.

Southwest Airlines scored 826 out of 10,000 point scale in the long-haul category and 839 out of 10,00 in the short-haul category. JetBlue scored 823 and 833, respectively. Out of the three major carriers in the United States, Delta ranked the highest in both categories scoring 810 and 820. American Airlines was second of the “big 3,” with United Airlines being the lowest rated. The industry average stood at 786 for short-haul and 798 for long-haul. Spirit Airlines rounded out the field of 10 airlines in long-haul, scoring a 719 and Frontier scored the lowest in short-haul with 746. 

Overall, the rankings show a similar theme to last year with Southwest and JetBlue tying for the first place. Overall, the ratings for all airlines as a whole have continued to increase in the United States, a positive sign that customer service is slowly increasing across the industry. 

The J.D. Power rankings come as a result of the North American Airline Satisfaction Study, something that has been run for 16 years. The survey measures the satisfaction of customers, both business and leisure, on eight different phases of the typical travel experience. All travelers that respond, must have flown within the previous month. These categories include aircraft, baggage, boarding, check-in, cost and fees, flight crew, in-flight services and reservations. A total of 10,100 passengers issued responses this year, an increase in over 4,000 responses when compared to last year when only 5,966 responses were given.

While all eight factors are important to travelers, the most important still seems to be direct flights, with 55 percent of customers rating this as the top priority when selecting an airline. This is where Southwest sees a major advantage due to its point-to-point route structure. Most other airlines operate a hub-and-spoke method routing passengers over larger, hub airports in order to get from point A to point B. According to the study, prices being too high was the most common reason that travelers chose not to pick specific airlines, even if the said airline was their preferred airline to travel with. 

While recently the airline industry has been crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic, these survey results do not reflect the drop in travel as they ran between April 2019 and March 2020. According to J.D. Power, they conducted additional market research from April 17 to 19 to gauge how passengers felt traveling during the pandemic. The most notable result of this extra survey was that passengers felt the most important thing to make them feel safer was being informed of specific cleaning actions that were being taken. This sentiment was shared by more than one-third of passengers that were surveyed. 

This is the first time that one single airline has both awards following a modification in the categories from previous years. Previous to this year, the award had been split into categories of low-cost and traditional carriers. The results of the 2020 survey also mark the first time in the past 12 years that Alaska Airlines has not been ranked first.

Jace Moseley
Jace Moseley
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