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JD Power: In-Flight Services Boost Passenger Satisfaction

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Tight, cramped seat. Nonexistent leg room. Pricey snacks. What felt like a four-hour nap was actually 30 minutes. When prepping, or even thinking about long-haul flights, you might groan with despair.

In better understanding the frequent flyer and long-haul traveler, J.D. Power released the results of its 2019 Airline International Destination Satisfaction Study. It measures passenger satisfaction with the entire air travel experience on flights from North America to Asia and Europe, from reservation to in-flight services, based on a recent flight experience.

Specifically, the basis on performance is split into nine factors: in-flight services, cost and fees, aircraft type, flight crew, check-in, boarding, immigration, baggage and reservation. The study is based on responses from 6,287 passengers from September to October 2019.

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“A low fare may be the best way to attract a first-time international passenger, but retaining passengers on routes to Europe and Asia is all about delighting customers with great in-flight experiences.” said Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power. “One of the most powerful ways to do that is with food-and-beverage offerings that are unique to the airline’s culture and that manage to deliver flavor at altitude, where it has been proven that taste buds grow less sensitive.”

Stomach Over Wallet

In-flight services—especially food and beverage—are key to passenger satisfaction. These services, which also include in-flight entertainment, are the primary drivers of passenger satisfaction among international travelers; price was actually one of the lowest drivers.

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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.

Staying with a Good Thing

First impressions really are long lasting; one of respondents’ primary reasons for choosing an airline was past experience with the airline. Following this was good customer service, then convenient scheduling; second to last was reputation and lowest was lower ticket price. Other variables that 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 and were not reported in the study.

So, who is performing well?

To fly across the pond, Turkish Airlines ranked the highest in passenger satisfaction, with a score of 833. Four points below it was Virgin Atlantic, while British Airways and Delta Air Lines tied for third.

For flights that are a little bit longer, namely North America to Asia, respondents ranked Japan Airlines highest in passenger satisfaction, with a score of 869. Delta Air Lines ranked second and Korean Air was third.

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