In its long quest to improve its customer service, Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines has inched a step closer to its goal of topping competitors in a closely watched airline satisfaction study.
Delta moved up one position in the J.D. Power and Associates North America Airline Satisfaction Study, taking second place in its category of traditional carriers. Alaska Airlines for six years has occupied the No. 1 spot in the category.
Delta CEO Richard Anderson has for years included among the company’s annual goals the aspiration of earning the J.D. Power award among network carriers. Delta came in 35 points behind Alaska on a 1,000-point scale.
Several years ago, Delta placed at or near the bottom of several airline rankings. Since then, it has invested in improvements in baggage handling and technology, focused on improving on-time performance, and trained employees to deliver better customer service. In the J.D. Power study, Delta improved its scores in every area.
One item continues to irk travelers — baggage fees. The fees still produce a “pronounced negative impact on passenger satisfaction, but with each year, passengers are increasingly more accepting,” according to J.D. Power travel practice senior manager Ramez Faza in a written statement.
Airlines collected a record $3.5 billion in baggage fees in 2012, with Delta collecting the most at $866 million.
On the other hand, technology like mobile apps, check-in kiosks, electronic boarding passes on cellphones and in-flight wi-fi are improving the experience for customers, making the process quick and efficient, according to J.D. Power senior account manager Jessica McGregor.
Delta and most of the big airlines in its category still score lower than all of the airlines in the low-cost carrier category, including Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways.
Southwest, which acquired AirTran in 2011 and began flying to Atlanta last year, ranked second in the low-cost carrier segment. JetBlue maintained its No. 1 ranking. AirTran, meanwhile, got the lowest score in the low-cost carrier category.
J.D. Power overall airline satisfaction rankings
Index scores on a 1,000 point scale
Alaska Airlines 717
Delta Air Lines 682
Air Canada 671
American Airlines 660
United Airlines 641
US Airways 630
JetBlue Airways 787
Southwest Airlines 770
Frontier Airlines 708
AirTran Airways 705
Source: J.D. Power & Associates 2013 North American Airline Satisfaction Study, published by J.D. Power & Associates