The forecast for Alaska for Wednesday: mostly sunny with a chance of satisfied customers. That's what a J.D. Power & Associates study, released Wednesday shows: Alaska ranked first in customer satisfaction for its airline and first in satisfaction among those who use Alaska's awards program.
The study ranked JetBlue as tops in the low-cost carrier field.
Amazingly, customer satisfaction with airlines was significantly higher than it was in the 2013 J.D. Power study, reaching a record 712 on a 1,000-point scale. That's despite baggage and other fees and increasing fare prices, all irritants to travelers.
Have passengers adopted a Pollyanna personality? Not exactly, said Rick Garlick, global practice lead for J.D. Power's travel and hospitality group.
"Some of the increase in — and I'm putting air quotes around this word — improvements in satisfaction are really more that people have become more tolerant and accepting of the things that made them dissatisfied before," he said.
Technology has helped improve satisfaction. The check-in process, with the use of online and mobile devices, has cut wait times and bettered the customer experience, he said.
Airlines also are basking in the reflected glow, he said, from the Transportation Security Administration's Pre-Check program, which allows pre-approved passengers to skip the removal of jackets, shoes, liquids and laptops to speed through screening (but it does not allow them to skip screening).
Once passengers have run that gantlet, they're finding better in-flight entertainment that allows them to while away the uncomfortable hours in ever-more-crowded planes.
The rest of the traditional carriers ranked this way in the satisfaction study after Alaska:
2. Delta (693)
3. American (684)
4. Air Canada (683)
5. United (658)
6. US Airways (656)
In the low-cost carrier derby, the rest of the field after JetBlue, which scored 789 points:
2. Southwest (778)
3. WestJet (734)
4. AirTran (706)
5. Frontier (676)
In airline awards programs after Alaska (757), here are the rankings:
2. Southwest (731)
3. JetBlue (707)
4. United (691)
5. Delta (686)
6. American (685)
7. US Airways (642)
Alaska took the crown in the awards category, Garlick said, because travelers don't have to fly only Alaska to earn points, thanks to its airline alliances.
The study, which took place from April 2013 until March of this year, surveyed 11,370 passengers who flew a North American airline from March 2013 until March of this year.
New York and Las Vegas came up empty in the list that ranges from budget to high-end properties.
The Desert Riviera ranked No. 1 and Hotel California No. 2, followed by
3. The 26-room SeaCoast Inn in Hyannis, Mass.
4. Beachside Village Resort in Lauderdale by the Sea, Fla.
5. La Maison in Palm Springs
6. The Hotel SYNC in Bowling Green, Ky.
7. Alhambra Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
8. Sleep Inn & Suites in Idaho Falls, Idaho
9. Hampton Inn & Suites St. Louis/South I-55 in Mehlville, Mo.
10. The Olea Hotel in Glen Ellen, Calif.
The best hotels for service worldwide put the Desert Riviera Hotel as No. 8. Morocco dominated the list with Riad Kheirredine (No. 1), Riad Noir d'Ivoire (No. 4) and La Maison Arabe (No. 9), all in Marrakech. Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort in Hopkins, Belize, took No. 2 followed by Akademie Street Boutique Hotel and Guesthouse in Franschloek, South Africa.