You're less cranky about flying, study says, but are you really happy?

You're less cranky about flying, study says, but are you really happy?
Customer satisfaction with flying increased a bit this year, according to the J.D. Power 2015 North American Airline Satisfaction Study. (Reuben Muñoz / Los Angeles Times)

Passengers are more satisfied with service they received on North American airlines, continuing an upward trajectory, according to a new J.D. Power study.

Maybe it's time to say goodbye to the cranky flier.


For the eighth straight year, fliers chose Alaska Airlines as their favorite major airline. JetBlue came in tops for service among low-cost carriers in a study released Wednesday.

The J.D. Power 2015 North America Airline Satisfaction Study looked at seven factors, including airline cost and fees, and boarding-deplaning-baggage wait times.

Broken down by age, younger Gen-Y travelers (born in 1977 to '94) were most satisfied, followed by pre-boomers (born before 1946).

Even satisfaction among passengers who pay fees to check their bags has increased in the past five years, the study says.

So this means we're all happier about flying these days, right? Not so fast.

"I find it a little bit awkward to use the word 'happy' when we're talking about airline customer service," said Rick Garlick of the Westlake Village-based company that analyzes and tracks industry trends. "It's not 'customer happiness' or customer delight,' just that people are more satisfied with their experience."

Indeed, airlines were among the poorest performers for customer satisfaction compared with other industries, according to a 2015 report by the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

It found consumers ranked airlines just above Internet service, subscription TV and health insurance.

The upward trend in satisfaction may reflect that passengers are more accepting of fees that drove down satisfaction in the past.

Instead fliers are focusing on what they like about their flying experience and forgiving about, say, delays and fees if they get good service, Garlick says.

Things have improved in the past few years. For example, self check-in and baggage drops at airport kiosks means you can skip the line at ticket desks. We can watch movies on our tablets during flights rather than rely on airline movie selections. And airlines have been investing in better, newer planes, Garlick says.

J.D. Power also found that airline passengers are more satisfied with airline loyalty and rewards programs year over year.

They ranked Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan as No. 1, followed by JetBlue's True Blue program and Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards.

The study among business and leisure travelers is based on responses from more than 11,000 passengers who flew on a major North American airline between March 2014 and March 2015.