JetBlue Tanks, Finishes Dead Last In WSJ Performance Rankings. But really???

by John Harper

JetBlue, long the darling of airline customer service rankings, dropped from fourth to dead last in the Wall Street Journal’s annual airline performance ranking for 2017. Delta Air Lines moved from second in the 2016 rankings to overtake Alaska Airlines in take the top spot in 2017.

The poor ranking is influenced by the New York City-based discount carrier’s low on-time performance last year. Skift reported in December that jetBlue recorded a 70-percent on-time performance in 2017, its worst in a decade. The U.S. airline industry on the whole averaged 79 percent.

The new ranking, published Wednesday, puts jetBlue behind often loathed Spirit Airlines.

While both airlines advertise themselves as discount carriers, the two have vastly different business models. Spirit charges al-la-carte pricing for everything from airport check-in to carry-on bags and bottled water, while JetBlue’s more generous model is punctuated by complimentary amenities like free wi-fi and unlimited drinks and snacks.

JetBlue finished sixth of nine airlines in last year’s rankings, tied with United. United rose to the number four spot in the rankings, while American improved from dead last in 2016 to sixth, just below discount carrier Frontier.

The Wall Street Journal rankings more heavily weight quantitative measures like lost bags, consumer complaints and on-time arrivals.

In J.D. Power’s annual customer satisfaction survey, jetBlue performed exceptionally high as usual, finishing narrowly second in the survey behind Southwest Airlines. J.D. Power surveys airline customers to collect customer satisfaction ratings in categories ranging from on-time arrivals to onboard service and staff friendliness.

In other words, jetBlue customers might have been exceptionally late in 2017, but despite this tardiness they were still happier than passengers on just about any other airline.

Still, the airline’s performance issues could cast jetBlue into more trouble if not resurrected, Savanthi Syth, an analyst at Raymond James Financial Inc., told Skift. “They’ve made this target of keeping costs under control. A very important part of that is going to be operations.”

Given the gracious amenities offered onboard, managing other costs is a critical component of the airline’s long-term strategy, and late planes can be exceptionally costly.

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