Customer satisfaction with U.S. airlines increased to what J.D. Power described as "new heights" over the past year, as the Covid-19 pandemic led to less crowed flights and caused airlines to end change fees.
Stepped up service from flight crews also didn't escape passenger notice, J.D. Power found in its annual North America Airline Satisfaction Study.
The study surveyed 2,309 people between August 2020 and March 2021. Respondents were required to have flown a North American airline in the month before they were questioned.
Overall, customer satisfaction with airlines rose 27 points from 2020 on J.D. Power's 1,000-point scale, to 819.
Customer satisfaction with flight crews increased 26 points as flight attendants and pilots were tasked with explaining Covid-19 health and safety measures to flyers. The removal by airlines of change fees led to an even more pronounced 47-point increase in customer satisfaction, the survey found.
Empty middle seats, mask mandates and other safety measure helped all airlines earn high marks from customers in regard to their response to Covid-19.
The satisfaction improvements found by J.D. Power mirror reports from various carriers throughout the pandemic that they were receiving their best ever Net Promoter Scores.
Among the seven airlines that J.D. Power included in its study, Delta scored highest with 860 points, surpassing Southwest and JetBlue, which had the best and second-best scores, respectively, in 2020. It is the first time Delta has topped the survey since 1995.
"They did an excellent job people-wise," said J.D. Power travel intelligence leader Michael Taylor, who noted that the carrier's rating in the flight crew category was 11 points better than any other airline's.
Delta also kept middle seats blocked throughout the length of the J.D. Power survey, which no other carrier did.
Southwest came in second this year, with 856 points. It was followed by Alaska (850 points), JetBlue (849 points), United (810 points), American (791 points) and Air Canada (759 points).