Study: Japan Airlines Leads In Passenger Satisfaction

by Giovanni

A new study from JD Power ranks Japan Airlines as the best carrier for customer satisfaction among airlines flying between North America and Asia. The result is one of many from the just-released JD Power Airline International Destination Satisfaction Study on airlines flying between North America and Asia and Europe.

Breaking It Down:

The Study

The JD Power study ranks airlines on nine important criteria for international air travel: in-flight services, cost and fees, aircraft, flight crew, check-in, boarding, immigration, baggage, and reservation. 6,287 passengers were surveyed for the study in September and October of this year.

a woman in uniform using a tablet

Cabin Crew service was one of nine factors considered in the JD Power customer service ranking

In addition to ranking airlines, JD Power also studied what’s important for international passengers. They found that “cost and fees are notably less important than in-flight services when it comes to delighting passengers on international flights.”

In-flight services—especially food and beverage—are key to passenger satisfaction: In-flight services, such as food and beverage and in-flight entertainment, are the primary drivers of passenger satisfaction among international travelers. On flights to Europe and Asia, more than half of the overall in-flight passenger experience is dictated by food and beverage. In-flight services are more important to passengers bound for Asia or Europe; whereas passenger satisfaction with long-haul flights within North America is more of a value proposition primarily driven by cost and fees.

But the food could be better…: While the food and beverage factor is key to passenger satisfaction, there is room for improvement. Overall passenger satisfaction with food and beverage offerings is currently lower than that of satisfaction with in-flight entertainment options. On flights to Europe, overall satisfaction with in-flight entertainment is 53 points higher (on a 1,000-point scale) than for food and beverage. On flights to Asia, that gap is 22 points.

Track record matters when it comes to airline selection: The primary drivers of airline selection among international passengers are past experience with the airline (40%); good customer service (36%); convenient scheduling (35%); reputation (33%); and lower ticket price (31%). Other variables, which weigh heavily on airline selection among domestic travelers—such as availability of a direct flight, no luggage fees and Wi-Fi access—play a much less significant role in airline selection among international travelers.

a white airplane flying in the sky

Japan Airlines is ranked as the best airline between North America and Asia


JD Power released overall rankings for Asia and Europe with break downs into the nine categories.

Among airlines flying to Europe, the overall winner was Turkish Airlines with a score of 833. However, among major transatlantic carriers, the highest ranking was a tie between British Airways and Delta with a score of 815. Air Canada pulled up the rear with a score of just 787 beating only low-cost carrier Norwegian.

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British Airways A320. Stuart Bailey/British Airways

British Airways ranked highest among major European trans-Atlantic carriers

As noted above, Japan Airlines (JAL) was the leader among airlines flying to Asia. The Japanese flag carrier leads with a score of 869 with consistently high marks across all nine categories except in reservation experience. Rival Asian carriers Korean Air, Cathay Pacific, and domestic competitor All Nippon Airways (ANA) also score well.

The worst carriers to Asia were not a big surprise. Air Canada, China Eastern Airlines, and United Airlines were ranked the worst.

a graph of a customer satisfaction survey

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a graph of a number of airliners

The Upshot

JD Power found that international flyers are more interested in quality customer service — good news if you’re tired of the race to the bottom it seems many airlines have engaged in. Japan Airlines’ top spot is no surprise given their high performance in virtually every ranking of airlines. Air Canada once again being ranked as one of the worst is also no surprise.

Do you agree with the new JD Power rankings? Which carriers do you think deserved a better score?

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Christian December 7, 2019 - 10:57 pm

I’d take these rankings with a big grain of salt. For starters, JD Powers’ business model is largely predicated on who gives them money. Then there’s the unlikely listings, like Korean being listed above Cathay and the wildly unlikely ones like EVA being well below Delta. In sum, just a rather unlikely order. I say this as someone who genuinely feels that JAL is a valid contender for the top spot.

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