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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Alaska Airlines again tops passenger satisfaction rankings among traditional air carriers

An Alaska Airlines plane takes off  at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle in January 2016. (Associated Press)
By Dominic Gates Seattle Times

Alaska Airlines, in ever-tighter competition with Delta Air Lines, held on for the 11th year in a row to its top ranking among traditional North American carriers in the annual J.D. Power passenger satisfaction survey.

Delta finished a close second in the survey.

Among low-cost carriers, Southwest ranked first, followed by JetBlue. These airlines actually had higher passenger satisfaction scores than the traditional carriers.

North American airlines today generally have a flagging image for customer service as they all compete to cram in passengers and cut costs to make lower fares possible.

It’s likely that the majority of the 11,508 passengers who responded to the 2018 J.D. Power survey were frequent fliers and those who travel in premium classes, which may skew the results toward more positive scores generally for the airlines.

Announcing the results, California-based J.D. Power, a marketing information and data services company, said airlines in North America scored consistently better this year in terms of operational issues such as the ease of booking tickets, baggage-handling performance, availability of overhead storage in newer jets and cost.

The one area where the scores were generally lower than last year was “in-flight services, which includes food, beverage and entertainment systems.”

The top two bucked that trend. Seattle-based Alaska improved its score in this category and Delta did even better. It was the only one among seven categories in which Delta scored higher than Alaska.

As Delta competes increasingly with Alaska at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, it has improved its inflight experience.

After a year when the integration with Virgin America has caused some disruption at Alaska, management urged its employees internally to go all out to preserve its decade-long streak at No. 1 against the perceived threat from Delta.

In the final analysis, Alaska beat Delta in five categories, including the friendliness of its crews, to come out on top in the overall satisfaction score.

Alaska has recently added high-speed satellite connectivity, more free movies and TV content, new First Class and main cabin menu items, and new craft beer and local wine selections.

Alaska Airlines Chief Executive Brad Tilden thanked the airline’s employees “for consistently providing amazing, kind-hearted service.”

“Ranking number one in this study is a fantastic reminder that we are moving in the right direction,” said Tilden.