Continental and Jet Blue Praised by J.D. Power

Continental Airlines came out on top as the best traditional airline in the annual J.D. Power and Associates 2006 North America Airline Satisfaction Study released Thursday, conducted in association with Aviation Week. JetBlue Airways ranked tops in the low-cost carrier category. J.D. Power and Associates said that during a period of major cost-cutting by many carriers, increasing ticket prices and overbooked flights, airlines who focused on their people and processes had the highest passenger satisfaction. The study is based on responses from 9,334 passengers who flew on a major North American airline between January and May 2006. Overall customer satisfaction is measured based on performance in seven factors (in order of importance): cost and fees; flight crew; in-flight services; check-in; boarding/deplaning/baggage; aircraft; and flight reservation. The study finds that "process" factors, such as check-in, how passengers board the plane and how baggage is delivered at the destination; and "people" factors, such as hiring the right people and training and enabling them to be successful, are what differentiate carriers in the eyes of passengers. JetBlue received top ratings across all seven customer satisfaction factors, but performed particularly well in those factors pertaining to people and processes; it achieved an overall satisfaction index score of 820 of a possible 1,000 points—81 points above the segment average. Southwest Airlines followed JetBlue in the low-cost airlines rankings. Continental Airlines excelled in the check-in, in-flight service, and cost and fees factors, and the airline performed particularly well with business travelers due to its OnePass frequent traveler program, the survey found. Delta Airlines came in second in the traditional category, with American Airlines third.