Customer Satisfaction Was Actually Going Up Before The Airlines Went Berserk

Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

With lower fares and fewer problems, the airline industry has, somehow, been on an upward trend in recent years. Customer satisfaction has been up five years running, and it continued to increase between 2016 and 2017. March 2017, that is—before major airliners started going berserk on their customers.


According to a J.D. Power survey released Wednesday, overall airline satisfaction reached “for the sky” from April 2016 to March 2017. Cute. With feedback from 11,015 passengers who flew on a major North American airline during that time period, here’s how J.D. Power broke its findings down:

Overall satisfaction with the airline industry in 2017 increases by a significant 30 points to 756 (on a 1,000-point scale), continuing a trend of steady performance increases that began in 2013. Both traditional and low-cost carriers have shown improvement, with the traditional carriers continuing to close the satisfaction gap with low-cost carriers (740 vs. 784, respectively)

That improvement, the survey said, was due to costs falling by 8.5 percent, flights being more on time, fewer lost bags, and, get this: “historically low bump rates and high scores for flight crews.” Good thing this survey wrapped up in March, right?

Come April, airlines were dragging bloody, bumped passengers off of flights, letting giant rabbits die in their cargo holds, kicking honeymooning couples off of planes for sitting in seats other than their own, removing families with toddlers from flights for sitting in seats that were their own, and a member of an American Airlines flight crew even challenged a passenger to hit him after a confrontation with another passenger.

These airlines are great, huh! A flying customer’s dream! Surely, the 2017 J.D. Power rankings will be even higher—especially with the continued lowering of fares! How kind of them.

Staff writer, Jalopnik



You’ll notice that most of these problems originate with the cabin staff and this is down to the (lack of) training in certain areas by many airlines, even the big flag carriers.

The boys and girls are there to save your butt if we mess up at the front and in this regard they are excellent - airline safety and survival training in all airlines I’ve worked for has been, without exception, superb. An excellent real world example of this is the Airbus Toronto crash a few years back - no lives lost, all down to the cabin crew.

Cabin service training, especially in the majors where business and first class exist, is spot on as well.

Where it falls down is that this training is generally rule-based. The junior and middle management all came up through the ranks as well and the system is self-perpetuating. ‘If X then Y’ works great for emergency situations 99% of the time and initiative is also worked on in these scenarios.

When it comes to the the randomness and rudeness of the demanding travelling public, there is no training. For most professions this isn’t an issue but cabin staff either need something on fire or crashed, or they’re at a loss. Couple this with a ‘you follow the rules or lose your job’ environment and I’m not surprised about this.

This is not anything new, by the way - it’s just in the media spotlight now. If this attention provokes a re-think of certain aspects of training for cabin staff, I’m not going to complain.

They get the shitty end of a very shitty stick and, whilst this doesn’t excuse the seeming lack of empathy, those of us in the industry understand how this happens.